Minnesota’s Democratic members of Congress sent a letter Friday to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) seeking new steps to ensure school bus safety.
“Minnesota families deserve to know that the school buses that students ride in are safe,” the members wrote.
In the letter to NHTSA’s acting administrator James Owens, members of the delegation requested additional information on what the agency can do to improve its oversight of the maintenance and safety of school buses. They also requested data on the number of Minnesota students injured on school buses each year, the number of recalls the agency issues annually and what it’s doing to coordinate with school bus providers to ensure that information about safety inspections and recalls is readily available to parents. The lawmakers also asked whether NHTSA needed additional resources to improve its oversight of school buses to ensure the safety of students.
The letter cited a Star Tribune report showing that nearly 1 in 8 school buses operated by First Student, Minnesota’s largest student transportation company, failed to meet state safety standards this year.
Several thousand Minnesota students ride the 1,160 First Student school buses inspected so far in 2019.
The reports from those inspections, obtained by the Star Tribune, show 12% of First Student buses flunked the test for what the state deemed serious safety defects such as brakes, flat tires and steering problems. Buses could also fail for multiple, less serious problems, such as a broken headlamp, loose seats or an exhaust leak.