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Audit says MSP's school bus division is understaffed

Posted: 5:39 PM, Sep 10, 2016
Updated: 2016-09-10 19:56:19-04

With her oldest of three starting kindergarten.

"I'm excited for him, I'm excited for this new adventure in his life," said Meghan Drouare.

Each morning she closely watches her son as he gets on the bus in the mornings.

"I obviously trust the school buses or else i wouldn't send them to school on one," Drouare said.

Many parents put their trust on school buses on the drivers.

"A little over 820 schools in Michigan. There's 16,000 buses that we inspect annually," said Randy Coplin, assistant commander for Michigan State Police's Commercial Enforcement Division.

In 2012 the funding for MSP's inspector division cut from $1.4 million to $400,000.

"that took our numbers of inspectors from 12 down to 4," Coplin said.

Being under staff meant the division had to rely on local school districts.

"We would leave the school with a different colored tag, a self certification tag," Coplin said. "People were to fill out and mail in that the repairs had been made."

Tags like red for buses that cannot be used to yellow which meant some work needed to be done.

"If they're yellow, we were allowing the schools to do some self certification," Coplin explained. "We allowed them to make the repairs and then put the bus back out on the road."

The audit found that only 30 to 40 percent of those repairs were done by Coplin and his staff.

"It's impossible to do 16,000 buses with four inspectors," he said.

Coplin tells me he was able to hire eight more inspectors who work in different areas of the state who constantly check the safety of the buses.

Since they've got more funding, he's made sure every bus in Michigan had QR Codes on them that allows families to know the condition of the bus.

"You go to the loading front of a school bus there's a QR code and if you use your smartphone," Coplin explains. "You can tag that QR code and it will tell you who owns the bus. Who's responsible for the safety and it will tell you the current status of the tag on that."