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Mon, Sept. 23

<I>DPS inspects all local buses</I><BR>All 3 districts turn in similar ranges of non-compliance

The Department of Public Safety (DPS) has inspected buses in all three tri-city public school districts and found a similar number of violations in each district.

DPS inspects buses annually and issues violations according to the Arizona law for minimum standards for school bus operations.

In an earlier inspection of Prescott Unified School District's 28 buses, officers found major and minor violations of the law in 19 buses. That works out to a 68 percent non-compliance figure, according to Lt. Bernie Gazdzik, DPS district commander for commercial vehicle enforcement for northern Arizona.

In later inspections of Chino Valley Unified School District (CVUSD) and Humboldt Unified School District (HUSD) buses, Gazdzik said his officers found a slightly higher percentage of violations.

Officers listed 157 major and minor violations in the HUSD's 44 buses for a 75 percent non-compliance rate, and a total of 53 violations in Chino Valley's 20 buses for a 70 percent non-compliance rate.

Transportation directors of both school districts said all the violations were corrected immediately during the DPS inspections.

"We take these inspections very seriously," said Jeff Lambert, CVUSD transportation director. "Officers are very thorough and they are very good at what they do."

Lambert said that with the exception of a loose seat, none of the violations "put children at risk. There were no unsafe buses."

Gazdzik said his officers found 29 major and 24 minor violations in 14 of Chino Valley's buses. Major violations included leaks in brake systems, an exhaust leak, problems with suspension systems and a faulty stop arm.

Lambert said the faulty stop arm was on a special needs bus that drivers pull into people's driveways to drop off students. He said they repaired the arm even though drivers don't use it on that bus.

Lambert also pointed out that a faulty "clip light" at the top of the bus rates as a major violation even though it doesn't affect the vehicle's safety.

"But that's O.K.," he said. "We're dealing with our children here."

Lambert, the district's transportation director for 22 years, said that he goes over the report with drivers and others in his department "to make them aware so they can look for things that need correct-ing."

Tom Rozum, HUSD transportation director, said that the district's 75 percent non-compliance rate "was better than last year and we'll be better next year."

"If they check with a spray bottle to look for bubbles on the exhaust, we'll check that way, too," he said. "There was nothing major enough to keep any buses off the road."

Rozum, who has directed the transportation department for 14 years, said his staff and drivers would start doing "random, thorough inspections like DPS does. "We're going to be more concerned with all the details."

Gazdzik said the DPS standards "are very strict" and he likes to see the violation rate less than 20 percent. He said, "there are quite a few school districts" that achieve that rate, particularly in the eastern area of the state.

Contact the reporter at dgoss@prescottaz.com

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