Cracked frames ground 2 buses

A recent police inspection has placed two Seymour Community Schools buses out of service because of cracked body frames.

Tim Fosbrink, director of transportation, said he contacted Indiana State Police, which conducts annual school bus inspections statewide, and the Indiana Department of Education to alert them of the problem.

Both 66-passenger buses were taken out of service voluntarily April 16 after Fosbrink’s staff was doing routine maintenance and discovered the problem. This was reported at the May 12 school board meeting.

“We were replacing rear brakes on bus No. 22 and found the frame was cracked,” Fosbrink said. “With the bus jacked up and the tires removed, it was the only way the cracks in the frame could be seen.”

Fosbrink then ordered all buses in the school system’s fleet of the same make and model to be checked for similar issues.

They found that bus No. 10 also had a cracked frame. Bus No. 5 showed evidence the frame was stressed, but there were no cracks, he said. All three buses are 2007 models manufactured by Thomas Built Buses.

The Indiana State Police planned to inspect all 2007 Thomas buses in the state as a result of the find, Fosbrink said, which could lead to an investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and a recall of those buses.

Fosbrink said there is a reinforcement plate in later Thomas buses that he believes has kept the school’s 2008 and 2009 models from having the defect.

State police officers inspected Seymour’s buses April 20 and ordered No. 22 and No. 10 to remain out of service. They found no defects with No. 5, Fosbrink said.

Police had conducted annual inspections earlier in the year and had not found the cracks.

Fosbrink said he is continuing to work with the school’s bus dealer, Kerlin Bus Sales, and Thomas to get the problem fixed.

Because of their age, the buses are no longer under warranty, Fosbrink said. The cost to fix each bus is $6,000 to $7,000, he added.

“The dealer is working with Thomas to get this covered at their expense,” he said.

Bus No. 22 already has been taken to the dealership for repair work. Fosbrink said that work has been completed, and he should be picking it up this week. It will have to be inspected again before it goes back on the road, he said.

“It’s hurt us, and I’ve had to scramble to get loaner buses,” he said.

Fosbrink said he doesn’t think the defect would have put students in danger, though.

“But by finding it and fixing it now, I think we avoided a major breakdown,” he said.

He has heard of problems with buses at other schools in the state, he said, but he didn’t know if they were cracked frames or how widespread that problem may be.

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January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.