The same school districts that administer tests to gauge student progress are themselves checked annually by the Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP), whose inspectors are tasked with verifying that the buses transporting youngsters to and from school are safe. In 2015, Hannibal and Palmyra buses not only passed, but earned perfect scores.

The same school districts that administer tests to gauge student progress are themselves checked annually by the Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP), whose inspectors are tasked with verifying that the buses transporting youngsters to and from school are safe. In 2015, Hannibal and Palmyra buses not only passed, but earned perfect scores.

“It’s something we strive for every year and we’re always close. It’s a great feeling to make it to 100 percent,” said Brent Meyer, director of transportation for the Hannibal public school district.

“We always tend to do pretty well, not 100 percent every year, but we have had 100 percent several years,” said Eric Churchwell, superintendent of the Palmyra R-1 School District.

Churchwell cited two factors when asked about the district’s keys to success.

“Danny Christy, our bus mechanic, has been with the district a long time and does a great job of maintaining the buses,” he said. “Being able to have the buses parked inside also helps.”

Meyer says Hannibal’s inspection success is due to a team effort.

“Drivers are a big part of it, doing the pre-trip inspections on a daily basis. Our mechanics stay on top of things and do a lot of preventive maintenance,” he said. “They (drivers and mechanics) are the reason why we got 100 percent.”

Hannibal reached 100 percent despite the fact not every vehicle in its 34-bus fleet is brand, spanking new.

“We’ve got a lot of older buses in the fleet,” said Meyer. “We’re getting newer buses, but a lot of older ones are still in the fleet and we still drive them on a daily basis. They’re good, solid buses. We watch them all equally.”

In July, three new buses will arrive and take the place of a comparable number of vehicles in Hannibal’s fleet, which according to Rich Stilley, district business manager, logs 2,100 miles a day during the school year.

MSHP inspections

During MSHP inspections, buses found to have no defective items are rated as “approved.” Buses with one or more defective items that pose no threat to the safety of students are rated as “defective.” Vehicles with one or more defective items that could compromise student safety are designated “out of service.”

Buses rated “defective” may continue to be operated until they are repaired. School districts are allowed 10 days following the initial inspection to repair any defects found during the inspection before being re-inspected by Highway Patrol Motor Vehicle Inspection personnel.

Buses taken out of service must be repaired, re-inspected and cleared by MSHP inspectors before they can be used again to transport students.

Buses not presented for re-inspection within the required 10-day period are reported to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

According to bus inspection results provided by the MSHP, the Ralls County R-II School District had two buses that did not initially pass the inspection. One was cited as “defective” while the other was designated “out of service.”

“One bus had a brake out of adjustment. It is supposed to be auto adjusting. The other bus was taken out of service because the MSHP said it had a fluid leak,” said Marty Hull, transportation director for the Ralls County district, adding that the district strives to “provide safe transportation and (we) expect 100 percent of our buses to pass the Missouri School Bus Inspection.”

Both buses passed their re-inspection, according to Hull.

“The brake was adjusted and re-inspected the day of the school bus inspection, and it passed,” he said. “The out-of-service bus was washed and checked for leaks. No leaks were found and no action was taken. The MSHP returned within 10 days to re-inspect the bus. The bus passed and was put back into service.”

MSHP records show that 11 of 12 buses used by Monroe City passed their initial inspection. One bus was designated as “defective.”

“MCR-I owns three buses. We contract our transportation services with Spalding Bus Lines here in Monroe City. All of the contracted buses passed inspection the first time through. Over my tenure as superintendent in Monroe City I do not recall a time that has not been the case,” said James Masters, Monroe City superintendent for the past seven years. “The bus that failed inspection is district owned. It failed inspection due to faded and peeling lettering. The identified problem was corrected and the bus was put back in service.”

Masters says providing safe transportation for students is an ongoing challenge for school districts.

“With a district that covers over 300 square miles, maintaining a bus fleet that can safely transport students to and from school daily is a constant challenge,” he said. “We are fortunate to have the opportunity to work with a local service provider whose fleet maintenance is outstanding.

“The challenge for all rural districts is maintaining transportation services at a time when reimbursements for transportation are falling. Specific to Monroe City, our state transportation reimbursements are nearly $125,000 annually less than they were five years ago. Those expenditures must be covered through local funds which in turn limits our ability to expand instructional programs and supports.”