School Buses Checked for Brake Defects

ByABC News
September 5, 2000, 9:26 AM

Sept. 5 -- As millions of American kids head back to class today, districts are scrambling to complete last-minute inspections of thousands of school buses for possible brake defects.

The Elyria, Ohio-based Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems announced Saturday that a defect with its brake systems could affect as many as 300,000 commercial vehicles, including 46,000 school buses operated by some of the countrys largest school bus builders.

Bendix spokesman Rick Batyko said about 40 drivers reported losing the ability to brake for 3 to 4 seconds when vehicles were moving at less than 20 mph. He pointed out, however, that all Bendix buses have emergency brakes that function at any speed.   It is only under very rare circumstances that a school bus brake system would completelyfail, he said.

Batyko said Bendix immediately notified the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration of the brake problems and has encouraged manufacturers to issue recalls.Now, were just talking to a lot of school districts about their inspections. he said.

Sixteen of the 40 incidents were reported in buses, but there have been no injuries associated with the brake system problems.

Bendix says it has sold 300,000 of the anti-lock brake systems, manufactured from March 1998 to last month. About 46,000 are in buses made by International, Blue Bird and Thomas Built.

Were certainly trying to react as quickly as possible, said Debi Nicholson, a spokeswoman for Freightliner Corp., the Portland, Ore.,-based parent company of Thomas Built Buses Inc. We wanted schools to have an opportunity to inspect their buses before school starts.

Buses Still Called Safest Transportation

Annually, about 24 million school children ride school buses in the United States.

Jim Vaglia, Director of Transportation for Virginias Prince William County Public Schools said he was first made aware of the problem on Friday afternoon.