School bus drivers voice concerns over bus safety - WCBD-TV: News, Weather, and Sports for Charleston, SC

School bus drivers voice concerns over bus safety

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Dozens of Durham School Services bus drivers gathered in North Charleston Tuesday evening to voice their concerns over school bus safety and employment issues.

The event, organized by the Teamsters Union of bus drivers, brought together national and international representatives and drivers from across the Lowcountry to discuss issues with Durham.

Claudia Herring has been a bus driver for more than ten years and has been a driver with Durham for the past two. She became emotional as she recounted an incident in November when she couldn't get in touch with dispatch after her bus allegedly caught on fire.

"My airbags exploded on my bus," she said. "I evacuated 20 children, still had no response. I asked my older children did anyone answer us, and they said no."

Herring also discussed how she had to report to work with a 102 degree fever because the school bus company reportedly does not allow sick leave.

"I have gone to work with a 102 fever because I can't afford to lose one day a pay because there is no sick leave," Herring said.

Sherryl Drake says her buses have a host of problems, including everything from water leaks to ripped buses. During her speech, Drake showed pictures of the reported damage to the crowd.

"Our maintenance is terrible and they are just turning their heads and not doing anything about our maintenance problems," Drake said.

Michael Bobby, Chief Finance and Operations Director with the Charleston County School District was at Tuesday's meeting. He tells News 2 that the, while Durham is responsible for maintaining a third of the buses, the state is in charge of making sure the rest are safe.

"We have a state bus system whereby the state fleet is way over age, and the amount of resources that are able to be given to support maintenance and care of buses is under funded," Bobby said.

He said that it is the district's goal to make sure children and drivers are safely transported by the buses. But Bobby stop short of answering if this is the first the district has heard the type of concerns raised Tuesday.

"Those are folks talking with a lot of emotion, so I am not going to speak to that because if we knew of an unsafe bus we would not allow it on the road. Period," he said.

According to Bobby, the district has planned to speak with Durham representatives about fixing the issues discussed at the meeting.

A spokesperson with Durham School Services released a statement to News 2 saying in part:

"Durham takes the safety of its passengers and employees very seriously. We have a clear process in place for drivers to report any concerns with bus safety, services or working conditions."

Organizers of the meeting handed out affidavits from 18 school bus drivers.  Some of those claimed Durham has not properly trained drivers who transport special needs children.
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