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Unscheduled inspection results in citations for District 518's bus service

Brian Korthals/Daily Globe Local law enforcement officers visit the American Transportation office Wednesday afternoon following a surprise inspection by the Minnesota State Patrol that took several school buses temporarily out of service because of safety violations.

WORTHINGTON -- An unannounced inspection of American Student Transportation buses in Worthington Wednesday resulted in 11 of the vehicles used in District 518 being temporarily pulled from service.

"The Minnesota State Patrol periodically does routine but unscheduled inspections, and they did one here today," confirmed Dave Skog, District 518's Director of Business Management.

"They took 11 buses out of service for various reasons, with a range of citations noted -- some of which were very minor, some requiring a garage," he continued. "But American Student Transportation has extra buses, including some they brought in from their other terminals, so all routes are operational."

Skog explained that buses are inspected using a check list, with each item assigned a point value. Once a bus's point total hits 25 or higher, the bus must be removed from service until the identified problems are corrected.

"Most of the violations discovered were aesthetic, but some were mechanical, and those are, of course, being thoroughly addressed," said Skog.

American Student Transportation has mechanics on-site in Worthington, according to Skog, although two of the buses may have been taken to different locations for the necessary servicing.

Items for which buses could receive negative points range from things such as loose mirrors, torn seat covers, bad foam in seats, burned-out bulbs in clearance lights, leaking thermal pane windows and inoperable buzzers on emergency exit doors.

More serious infractions include compromised brakes, or a driver not having completed his/her routine pre-trip inspection.

"There were two buses that did not have documentation of their pre-trip inspections on board today, and that is a no-no," said Skog.

Some of the buses had just a couple of infractions, said Skog, while others had several minor problems that nevertheless brought their totals to 25.

Daily, District 518 has 23 buses running on its afternoon routes and 22 on its morning routes, Skog detailed. In visiting with American Student Transportation officials, Skog was told the majority of the 11 buses were expected to be back on District 518's bus routes by Friday, with the mandatory corrections made.

American Student Transportation is in its second year as District 518's bussing provider. Headquartered in Maple Grove, it was the only bus contractor to offer District 518 a complete bid following the dissolution of the locally based Kempema Bus Company in 2011.

Annual scheduled bus inspections typically take place in October or November, Skog said, and are still ahead for the buses serving area students.

"There are plenty of buses to complete all the routes," stressed Skog.

Questions about American Student Transportation buses or routes may be directed to the company's Worthington office at (507) 343-2000.