School districts conduct bus safety inspections ahead of the start of school year

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WILDWOOD, Mo. – Back-to-school season is revving up. And as kids enjoy their last week of the summer break, school officials are hard at work making sure buses are ready to roll.

Missouri state law requires each bus be checked top to bottom before kids board a vehicle.

Scheduled maintenance and attention to detail are how transportation officials in the Rockwood School District account for their track record regarding safety inspections. Rockwood school buses passed Missouri State Highway Patrol safety inspections with nearly 100 percent of buses in compliance on March 18 and 19.

"It's absolutely outstanding," said Rockwood’s Director of Transportation Mike Heyman. "The fact that out of 190 school buses, inspectors found just one with a brake light out, shows just how seriously they take their work in Missouri. Knowing that, it makes a 99 percent passing rate all the more rewarding. Our entire department is very proud."

For the past two years, Rockwood transportation scored 100 percent on spring school bus inspections. Heyman was asked how he accounts for this success.

"The bottom line is good maintenance," said Heyman. "This is the result of scheduled, preventative maintenance and attention to detail, which is overseen by shop manager Jimmie Pulley."

In 2016, Rockwood purchased and began operating its own bus fleet, a move that saved the district more than $500,000 a year. But Heyman said newer bus fleets are not without mechanical issues, such as warranty work.

Heyman said communication with the people who drive the school buses makes the system work.

"Every day, the drivers perform a pre- and post-trip inspection," said Heyman. "If they find any major defects, they do not take the bus out. They contact us and we get the bus in right away and repair it. Minor things are written up and, in the evening, we have mechanics who address all those issues on a nightly basis. Then they communicate that with the driver."

Heyman said state inspectors will return in July because all school buses need to be inspected again within 60 days of the start of a school year. Rockwood technicians perform up to six inspections per year as part of fleet maintenance.

"Our in-house transportation team continues to do excellent work in an ongoing effort to provide safe and effective transportation for our students,” Superintendent Dr. Eric Knost said.

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