The Puyallup School District achieved the best winter bus safety inspection in three years with each of the buses examined — representing a quarter of its fleet — meeting safety standards during an unannounced visit last month by the Washington State Patrol.
Each of the 47 buses examined during the extensive two-day inspection met state safety standards, said Cathy McDaniel, director of transportation.
The 100 percent passage rate of 25 percent of the fleet reflects a continued trend of improvement over the past three years of both winter and summer bus safety inspections.
The last summer and winter inspections both yielded 98 percent passage rates, preceded by a 97 percent passage in summer 2011 and an 87 percent passage the previous winter.
The number of items recommended for repair or adjustment during inspections has also steadily improved, McDaniel said. The 19 repairs noted on the most recent inspection, which are not severe enough to pull a bus out of service, are down from 32 last August.
The state patrol inspects district buses twice a year — the full operating fleet of school buses and district vehicles in summer during a planned inspection, and about 25 percent of school buses during an unscheduled winter inspection anywhere between November and March.
The next inspection of the full fleet of 180-plus buses and 19 district cars or other vehicles is scheduled in early August, 2013.
While McDaniel acknowledges the success of the recent top bus safety inspection, she is quick to add that her sights are set on achieving the same 100 percent passage rate when the entire fleet is inspected this summer.
“When 100 percent of our fleet passes inspection with no buses being pulled from service, that will be a defining moment for our district,” she said. “I’m convinced we can do it, and everyone is working hard to make that happen.”
Puyallup school buses and district vehicles are serviced by district mechanics approximately every 3,000 miles. Between those scheduled services bus drivers check their buses before and after every bus trip. Pre- and post-trip inspections examine basic safety features such as air brakes, flashing lights, the red stop paddle, and the crossing arm.
Puyallup is the ninth largest school district in the state of Washington. More than 15,000 of the 20,500-plus students in the district ride the bus to and from school every day.
McDaniel, along with district mechanics, were honored with a standing ovation from the School Board of directors and audience at the Feb. 11 school board meeting.