The Tennessee Highway Patrol is working to complete inspections on thousands of school buses.
Each of the more than 8,000 school buses statewide must be inspected at least once a year by THP.
“We insure that all school buses across Tennessee are inspected,” Lt. Ray Robinson said. “Ours is only one piece of the puzzle the bigger piece is what the [school] system is doing.”
He continued, “For example, Metro Nashville Schools has a wonderful maintenance program.”
THP has 14 inspectors who inspect the buses, which is one more since last year. The department expects to add two more inspectors next year.
The inspectors look at all the moving parts under the school bus, including brakes and the steering system.
They also check safety lighting, the horn and mirrors on the outside of the bus.
Inside the bus, all the windows and emergency hatches as well as the driver notification system are checked. The notification system helps alert a driver is a child is still on the bus at the end of a bus route.
“Our inspection, along with the school district’s inspection, and the driver doing a pre-trip inspection each day, helps keep the buses safe,” Lt. Robinson said.
In November, News 2 uncovered hundreds of buses were not being inspected annually by THP
They told News 2 they were developing a fleet management system to track school buses, maintenance reports and inspections.
“Our new system will actually send an email to that individual inspector saying this school bus was last inspected 11 months ago and it should be inspected within the next 30 days,” Lt. Robinson said last November.
The system is now up and running in all of the school districts across Tennessee as of Wednesday.
“We knew we had some things we wanted to make better,” Lt. Robinson said. “One of those things was a vehicle maintenance system that helps us know when school buses need to be inspected.”
The system also helps THP keep better track of bus inventories and buses that are 18 years or older and require two inspections per year.
Buses are typically taken out of service when they turn 18, but state law allows them to remain in operation if the bus has fewer than 200,000 miles.
Parents can see the last time their child’s bus was inspected by looking for a yellow sticker on the bumper of the bus beneath the driver.
It will display the month and year of the last THP inspection. It is possible the bus was inspected at the district level more recently than that inspection shows.
THP is also reminding drivers to be careful when buses are loading and unloading.
“The most dangerous time during transportation is loading and unloading,” Lt. Robinson said.
Drivers are required to stop whenever a bus has its flashing red lights and stop signs out.
The exception is when an approaching vehicle is separated from the bus by a barrier like a concrete barrier or a ditch.
Drivers behind the school bus are not allowed to pass at all when the bus is loading and unloading.