County school buses undergo annual state inspection

Published 9:23 am Monday, August 14, 2017

From bumper to bumper and all the nuts and bolts in between, Carter County School System buses have been undergoing annual inspections this past week to get ready for the start of a new school year.

Tennessee Highway Patrol Trooper Robert Wills has been working with bus garage staff to make sure all of the buses are in the proper shape to maintain safety for the students.

“Mainly what we’re looking at on the buses is making sure all the safety features are functioning properly,” Wills said.

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As Wills inspects the buses, he starts on the outside working his way around, and under, the bus before moving inside to check issues.

On the outside, or what Wills refers to as the skin of the bus, the Trooper checks a variety of items, such as seeing that all of the lights are functioning properly, the mirrors provide the drivers with the ability to see into the blind spots, the crossing arm is working properly. He checks the tires for tread depth, wear and tear, and load rating.

Wills then takes a trip under the bus to check the steering mechanisms, drive train, and brakes among other things. He makes his way down the entire length of the bus looking for frame damage, fluid leaks, or other issues of concern.

Once inside the bus, Wills checks the emergency exits — back door, exit windows, and roof hatches. If the bus is equipped with seatbelts, Willis checks to ensure they are free from cuts, tears, and other damage. During an inspection he also closely checks the bus seats to make sure they are secure on the floor, the covers are in tact, and the foam padding is not worn down. The padding provides protection from impact with the interior steel frame should a kid hit the seat back during a crash, Wills explained.

“If I find anything I deem is unsafe, then I shut the bus down, and they can’t run it until I come back, recheck it and feel everything is safe,” Wills said. “When it rolls out of here, it all works.”

School buses are subject to three types of inspections — annual inspections, spot checks, and Class II inspections.

Each bus must undergo an annual inspection each year. Spot checks are more random but can be used to keep an eye on a bus that an annual inspection shows could have an issue in the future.

“On the annual, they know when I’m coming,” Wills said. “For a spot check, I just pull up in their parking lot and say ‘I want to see that, that, and that bus.’”

Class II inspections are performed every six months on buses going into their 16th year of service on the road.

“They are a little stricter on the older buses,” Wills said. “Tennessee has really strict guidelines on buses, more strict than other states.”

The reason behind such strict guidelines and thorough inspections is real simple, Wills said.

“The main thing is the safety of the kids,” he said. “We try to give them the best safety we can.”