Back 2 School: Inspectors completing top-to-bottom school bus checks

BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - Each year, more than 12,000 school buses undergo mandatory inspections in Wisconsin. Those buses will be back on the road Sept. 3 as most schools mark their first day of classes.

Wisconsin State Patrol inspectors and maintenance crews are busy making sure the fleet is ready to carry that precious cargo. They check every inch of the bus inside and out.

"We start working back in a procedure. We check to make sure all the seat backs are secured and all the seat bases are secured as well," says Sgt. Dan Diedrich.

Sgt. Diedrich says they look for worn tire treads and rusted frames. They make sure the exhaust is working.

They check to make sure the stop sign extends and the amber and red lights flash.

They check all emergency exits.

"We can check all these emergency windows to make sure the emergency alarm will activate," Diedrich shows us.

If major problems are found, the bus is put out of commission until the repairs are made.

"We're literally looking at everything on the bus. We're looking at the safety devices, whether it be the children getting on and off the bus, the other safety features... emergency exits. But we're also looking at the frames, the tires, the brakes, the suspension," says Diedrich.

Two inspectors check over roughly 2,000 buses in Northeast Wisconsin each year.

"Depending on the carriers, the common violation that we see are the headlights, turn signals, the stuff that can go wrong, just like on your passenger car," says Diedrich.

Inspectors also conduct spot checks to see if past violations have been repaired and to randomly check on drivers.

"We're also looking at driver credentials. Do they have a valid CDL? Are they passenger carrier endorsed?"

Some buses, especially older ones, have problems. Diedrich says most are well maintained.

"It's carrier to carrier. Obviously we have some fantastic carriers in the State of Wisconsin, and we've got some smaller carriers that could probably use a little bit of work," says Diedrich. "The good part about it is, the way we have our school bus program set up, is we've got essentially the same officer doing all the buses each year, so they get to know their carriers very well and build those relationships.

"So the carriers that need a little bit more work, we can kind of get some voluntary compliance out of, but they know exactly where the trouble areas are, year to year."

Lamers Bus Lines has more than 1,600 school buses in its statewide fleet.

"It's our service intervals. We have shorter intervals than most, so we're able to get them into the shops and look at them more regular," says Chris Anderson, Lamers maintenance supervisor. "You've got to have top notch maintenance on them. Little kids on the bus, we want them safe going down the road."

It's up to other drivers around them to help kids on the bus stay safe.

"Put the phone down and concentrate on the road in front of you whether that be around a school bus or not," says Diedrich.

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