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Bus check finds 'no major problems'

McDuffie Schools bus driver Tammy Bowling was elated Tuesday with the results of the state inspection of Bus No. 28.

Bowling drives a route at Dearing. This week, though, she and some other drivers were assisting at the school bus barn off Harrison Road, behind the high school.

She got a new safety sticker on No. 28 after inspector Johnny Pearson checked the brakes, lights and dozens of other safety features.

"It got all checks," said Tammy Newsome, the bus service secretary and safety training director.

Pearson spent Monday and most of Tuesday at the McDuffie bus barn. He signaled for Butch Wiseman and other drivers to flip on the lights and turn signals. He checked under the engine cover. He crawled onto a shop creeper and slid under the buses.

By midmorning Tuesday, he had checked all but 16 of the school district's 58 buses. Pearson specializes in those safety checks. He is one of 13 inspectors with the Georgia Department of Transportation Motor Carrier Compliance Division. Each inspector has assigned counties, he said, and also works in metro Atlanta. Their year-round inspections evaluate more than 16,000 buses each year.

McDuffie Schools Transportation Director Henry "Butch" Blount said the inspections had not forced any buses out of service. He said Pearson found "no major problems. A few lights and a muffler clamp."

"They're good mechanics," Blount said of the staff.

He said the maintenance department also learns from the inspectors. For instance, Pearson called attention to tie rod ends to keep them from binding the steering.

Blount said though the state only inspects the vehicles once a year, the school district inspects buses regularly. "Every 20 to 30 days the bus comes through the shop," he said. That routine inspection will resume next week.

Newsome said drivers routinely conduct a 23-point inspection of their buses. Those "post-trip" checks are made four times each day, at the conclusion of each leg of the route.

Any problems are called to the attention of the mechanics, who fix the lights or other problems and then return a completion sheet to the bus driver.

"There's quite a bit of paperwork involved in running school buses," Newsome said.

Even that driver checklist is examined by the state inspector.

Blount said the checklist stays in the bus, just in case it is needed after an accident.

"Everything's going real well," Newsome said of the annual inspections. She said only two minor defects were found on the 34 buses that were checked Monday.

She said training, too, is a year-round mission for her office.

Web posted on Thursday, September 29, 2011

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