What’s Doing Under That Yellow Paint?
School bus inspections are more frequent than you may suspect.
The First of Many
The federal government through Transport Canada is responsible for setting new vehicle standards including those for school buses. Transport Canada has set 37 school bus safety standards, including such features as the strengthened steel beams which run the length of a school bus as a steel “cage” around the fuel tank, the distinctive yellow and black colouring, the overhead flashing lights and “stop arm.”
A Daily “Look-See”
Every day, before it can be driven on a public road, a school bus has to be inspected, and the results of that inspection recorded in a vehicle log book. You aren’t likely to see this trip inspection being performed unless you live next door to a school bus driver, or visit a bus fleet’s service yard very early in the morning. But rest assured it’s a component of the road test requirements for a school bus driver’s license. So they learn to complete a “walk around” or a “circle check”, as they’re often called, and use this skill daily on the job. Click here for more information on the Daily Inspection.
Have you ever noticed a small, perforated, coloured decal affixed to the window glass of your child’s school bus and wondered what it was for? Think of it as a visible pass certificate for one of two thorough mechanical inspections that a licensed mechanic from a certified Motor Vehicle Inspection Station has to perform on every school bus over the course of the year.
Nick-named the “brake” and “safety” inspections, these represent the absolute minimum number of vehicle inspections required by Ontario Regulation. In the interest of keeping the fleet running safely and smoothly, and because, just as with your family automobile, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, school bus operators bring their vehicles in for preventative maintenance more frequently than the minimum. The operators must establish and document their inspection and preventative maintenance program and abide by it.
Like all commercial vehicles in Ontario, school buses are subject to roadside safety inspections. However, you won’t find them pulled over beside the dump truck and the tractor-trailers on the 400-series highways. Until recently, most school bus inspections took place in the bus company’s yard. But many buses, especially those running in more isolated parts of Ontario, may not return to a central depot overnight. So changes were made in the Ministry of Transportation’s program to perform ad-hoc, unannounced roadside inspections “at destination” instead, to ensure an adequate sampling of the entire fleet.
Both school bus drivers and the fleet owner/operators face potentially serious consequences if vehicle defects are identified, up to and including stiff fines, plates removed, and even vehicle impoundment. You’ll be glad to hear that such extreme measures are seldom necessary. More typically, a bus may be temporarily taken out of service, or restricted from carrying passengers until necessary repairs are made. Remembering that most school bus fleets can dispatch a number of spare buses as required, you probably won’t even experience an interruption of service.