Sunday, November 28, 2010

Halifax Chronicle Herald: Tire checks stop school buses in their tracks

By BILL POWER Staff Reporter
Sun, Nov 28 - 4:53 AM

Sixty New Brunswick school children had a trip to Halifax interrupted for more than a few hours Wednesday because their two privately chartered buses entered Nova Scotia with substandard tires.

Click here to read original article in the Chronicle Herald

Inspectors with this province’s motor carrier division stationed at the weigh station just outside Amherst "observed the unfamiliar vehicles crossing the border into Nova Scotia," Paul Allen, a division spokesman, said Saturday.

Prestige Charter Bus tires
They signalled ahead and later in the day, the buses, owned by Prestige Bus Service of Sackville, N.B., were pulled over by other inspectors. One was stopped near the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax, the other was ordered into the Irving Big Stop in Enfield.

Both were subjected to roadside, walk-around inspections and "some tires on both vehicles were found to be deficient," Allen said.

Tread depth on a number of tires was found to be below the required 3.17 millimetres, he said. (The minimum tread depth for a regular passenger vehicle is 1.5 millimetres.)

Inspectors ordered immediate replacement of the defective tires, resulting in a lengthy delay for the students from Marshview Middle School in Sackville, N.B.

Allen said it is unlikely the motor carrier division, which operators under the authority of the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board, will be apologizing for interrupting the trip.

"A pre-departure inspection could easily have determined some tires had insufficient tread depth," Allen said, noting that drivers in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are required to conduct an inspection of their motor coach prior to each trip.

"Tire tread depth is checked easily with an appropriate gauge," he said.

The pre-trip inspection is in addition to the twice-yearly inspections that authorities in both provinces require every motorcoach to undergo.

Publicity about the deficient tires and interrupted school trip has been devastating for the chartered bus operation, said Donald Estabrooks, whose family owns the business. He said officials with New Brunswick School District 2 have already cancelled future contracts.

Estabrooks said some people are overreacting to the situation and comparing it to the Jan. 12, 2008, highway tragedy that killed seven students and a teacher from Bathurst High School. The crash of the van they were in was partly blamed on worn tires.

He said he has friends with children and a nephew at the school and would not allow an unsafe bus on the road.

"There was never, at any time, a safety risk," he said. "We are a small company that is completely dedicated to safety."

Estabrooks was driving one of the buses. He said the two worn tires on the tag axles of each bus were identified prior to departure and a decision was made to replace them the following day.

Tires on tag axles "provide additional support when there are exceptionally heavy loads," Estabrooks explained.

When inspectors ordered the tires on the tag axles replaced, "we immediately complied," he said.

Estabrooks said there was some confusion with cellular calls from students alerting parents that the return trip was delayed because tires had to be replaced.

"Some of the parents did not understand which tires were involved. We’re trying to get the word out about what actually happened and how these tires function on a bus," he said.


Click here to read original article in the Chronicle Herald