Carroll bus drivers gear up for first day with annual school bus inspections

With less than two weeks until Carroll County schools are back in session, teachers and students aren’t the only ones getting ready.

Tuesday, Aug. 21, marked the second of four days dedicated this week to school bus inspections, an event that occurs three times a year, Carroll County Public Schools Director of Transportation Michael Hardesty said.


“It’s a complete, thorough check three times a year,” he said.

In the Century High School parking lot Tuesday morning, a stream of buses wrapped around the front of the building in two lines, each moving through stations like a well-oiled machine. Buses moved through a number of stages as different pieces of the vehicle were inspected.

All 320 buses are to be inspected, Hardesty said. Tuesday was scheduled to see approximately 90 buses, he added.

During one portion, the bus’ tires were checked to make sure the tread depth is right, and that there were no tears or holes. In another, emergency exits — windows, roof hatches and doors — were checked, as well as the bus’s inside. Hardesty said they CCPS checks for any tears or holes in the seats, and also make sure all of the seats are secured.

Next, came checks on the lights.

“Every light on the bus has to work how it’s intended to,” Hardesty said.

CCPS checked the signs and stop arms as well.

From there, the bus moved ahead to inspections by county inspectors. Two inspectors tackled each bus, one checking the engine and the other rolling under the bus with a flashlight to check fuel or exhaust leaks, brake issues and more.

Of the 320 buses, Keith Shorter, supervisor of transportation with CCPS, said there are about 71 special education buses. The inspection for those buses includes a few more checks — namely, making sure there are proper secures for wheelchairs, working seat belts and working lifts.

In the summer, about 70 percent of buses pass, Shorter said. Of the 30 percent that don’t, only 7 or 8 percent have a serious issue, he said.

“Of all of the things we do administratively, this is probably the most important thing that we do,” Shorter said.

Hardesty said there are two categories for a bus that fails inspection — minor repairs and major repairs. If it’s a minor problem, like a tear in a bus seat, he said contractors have 30 days to fix the issues and send documentation to CCPS that it has been handled. If it’s a major problem, like engine or brake issues, the problem is to be rectified immediately.

“We put a red tag on the bus that signifies it cannot transport students until that problem is fixed,” Hardesty said.

Hardesty said the expectation is that in addition to passing inspection, buses are to be nice and clean — inside and out — for the first day.


Drivers are also to be familiar with their routes as the first day approaches, he said. For many drivers, the routes aren’t new, or only have minor changes compared to last year.

“We’re making minor adjustments as we learn more about students moving and adding stops, deleting stops. But for the most part, drivers should have their routes now,” he added.

If a driver has a completely new route, Hardesty said, the expectation is that the contractor and driver will go out to practice before school begins.

“We want drivers to be familiar with their routes on the first day of school so everything goes smoothly,” he added.

And while earlier this summer CCPS put out a call for bus drivers, Shorter said the school system intends to be fully staffed on the bus routes come the first day.

Even still, anyone still interested in driving can contact Dianne Grote with the Carroll County School Bus Contractors Association at 410-848-4649 or the CCPS Transportation Services Department at 410-751-3229.

“We believe every route will be covered on the first day of school … but we are always looking for more drivers,” he added.

Hardesty said with school gearing back up, it’s important for drivers on the road to be prepared to see buses back on the streets again. Riding and commuting patterns will change, he said.

Drivers should familiarize themselves with laws in regard to buses and stopping when bus lights are flashing red and the stop arm is down, Hardesty said.

“You must stop if you see red,” he added.