"We're participating in one of the most expensive recalls in the history of school transportation," said Wayne Clutter, executive director of school transportation for the West Virginia Department of Education. "The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has not ordered the affected buses and trucks out of service, but has requested truck and bus manufacturers to replace control modules as a precaution. We will be complying with this recall to ensure that our students can continue to have the safest form of transportation to and from school."
According to Clutter, a recall was issued in July that required the inspection and repair of wires that could send an erroneous signal to the electronic control unit on Bendix anti-lock brake units. A recall issued earlier this week orders manufacturers to replace the control modules as a precautionary measure, he explained.
"None of West Virginia's buses had the faulty wiring, nevertheless we're going to replace the control modules as a prudent, precautionary measure," Clutter said. "Our buses will remain in service, but the units will be replaced as soon as parts become available. Replacement parts will be available after October 16, and the state's buses should be repaired within a couple of weeks."
The transportation director said that only 388 of the state's 3,500 buses are affected by the recall.
"We would like to assure the public that our school buses are safe -- and the safest form of transportation to and from school," he said. "West Virginia's buses are inspected a minimum of twice a year by four inspectors employed by the Department of Education. The state's school bus inspection program has been recognized as a national model for over two decades. After replacement parts for this recall have been installed on our buses, Department of Education inspectors will travel across the state to ensure work is completed."
Clutter said that all people concerned about bus safety should be encouraged that the NHTSA is diligent in its investigation of traffic accidents involving buses.
"From all indications, this recall was precipitated by one accident of one school bus that was caused by a number of factors, including faulty wiring, which combined to cause this accident," he explained. "This single accident, which did not occur in West Virginia, was apparently very minor. The NHTSA takes accidents very seriously and moved quickly to protect the health and safety of children," he noted.
"Although the problem apparently can only occur when buses are traveling between four and eight miles per hour, the NHTSA and the West Virginia Department of Education believe that children's lives are too important to risk, so control modules on all of these brake units will be replaced," he said.
According to Clutter the units will be replaced at no cost to county school systems or to the state.
"Counties may receive reimbursement for the replacement or they may decide to have a dealership do the work -- it's their choice," he said. "Either way, this recall should not cost West Virginia taxpayers a single cent."