(WSYM) — As we head back to school, is your child’s school bus safe? When you consider the numbers, it is an important question.
Michigan has approximately 17,000 vehicles that transport in excess of 800,000 children over 10 million miles annually. And last school year, more than 1,000 were found to have problems so significant, police ordered them off the road until work could be done.
Michigan State Police inspect every bus in the state, and we took a look at their records to see what is happening with your child’s bus.
Tiffany Alls put her children on Southfield school buses in recent days. She felt relief when we told her Michigan State Police inspect every single school bus ." It’s a really good idea because you never know," said Alls.
Motor Carrier Sgt Jeremy Matter says it takes an entire year for 12 inspectors to give each bus a tag.
"Because when you think about it, what is the most precious cargo anybody can haul? It is our kids, right?" he said.
They are red-tagged if Michigan Police find safety concerns that require the bus be taken off the road, yellow tagged if there are minor problems, and green tagged if they are in good shape.
On average, 10% of buses in Michigan are red-tagged. The seven schools or districts in metro Detroit with the highest red tag rates: Highland Park Public School Academy, Ecorse, Lakeview, Center Line Public Schools, Clintondale Community Schools, Warren Woods Public Schools and Highland Park City Schools.
Michigan State Police say between 50 and 100% of buses in these districts are red-tagged buses. We reached out to the districts with the highest rate of issues.
Ecorse Schools is looking into changes ensuring communication with Triumph Transportation because it didn’t know about problems until we made a phone call.
Clintondale Community Schools says all buses ever used had green tags.
"I know why we were getting red tags. The buses to be blunt, we’re not very safe," said Ed Gallagher.
Gallagher says while he has experienced work in a garage where red tags were common, he now works for Durham School Services Ann Arbor, which for the last 9 years has had a perfect record of green tags only for Ann Arbor Public Schools.
"I have the greatest crew and the greatest fleet around," said Gallagher.
John Nikloich, Ann Arbor Schools Lead Technician, says, "Our philosophy is when we bring a bus into the shop, we aren’t looking for problems, we are proving there are no problems with everything we look at."
They say they've had a perfect record now for 29 years.
During Richard Hella’s tenure as Head Mechanic for Bloomfield Hills Schools all buses got green tags.
He says it is possible because of preventative maintenance, teamwork with bus drivers, and his inspections.
"It has a lot to do with recognizing an issue from the start and not waiting for the inspection day," said Hella.
Jane Mack, Bloomfield Hills Transportation manager, says "Bus maintenance is all about safety for the students and safety for the driver."
"If I was a parent and it was all red-tagged buses, I would be concerned about putting my kid in a bus that is facing apart," said Hella.
Michigan State Police say if you want to know the status of your child’s bus, look at the door. There is a QR code. Scan it with your phone and the MSP information will come up, allowing everyone to keep kids safe.