FDCSD buses pass state inspection

Fort Dodge Community School District buses have passed state inspection. The buses are inspected twice a year.

“We have a state inspector that comes and checks every vehicle that we have,” Marcy Harms, FDCSD transportation director, said. “He looks for any defects they may have.”

The district has 35 buses, running 18 regular routes and delivering more than 1,000 students to their destination five days a week, Harms said. Buses are inspected from top to bottom, from the frame and windows to its mirrors and reflectors.

The district’s buses were not without imperfection.

“We had two buses that were out of service, which means you can’t drive again, but were fixed before (the inspector) even got off the lot,” Harms said. “Sometimes, for instance, a shock snaps, and we wouldn’t have detected that because it hadn’t been driven in a while, but they were out and had it fixed before he could even leave.”

All of the district’s buses are currently running.

“It’s either a 30-day fix, out-of-service or just notation,” Tammy Oester, transportation manager, said. “The mechanics take a lot of pride in the vehicles. And when the state inspector comes through, they’re right behind them, fixing whatever the notations may be. If they can fix it without ordering parts, they get right on it.”

According to Harms, the state inspector was impressed with the efforts of the district’s mechanics.

“He had to come back and inspect two buses that were on out-of-town trips and there were a couple of notations, windows starting to get fogged over and stuff,” Harms said. “And when he came back, the windows had already been ordered and were in the shop getting repaired.”

The bus drivers, as well, remain ever-diligent of their vehicles’ state. Inspections are done before any trip is made, Oester said.

“The drivers do pre-trip every time they leave the lot. If they drive a morning and afternoon route, they’ll pre-trip in the morning and pre-trip in the afternoon. If they drive a mid-day route, they have to pre-trip it again,” she said. “If they drive an activity trip, they have to pre-trip again.”

Drivers work with the mechanics to ensure the vehicles are well-kept and maintained.

“The drivers are usually on top of it,” Oester said. “They write a repair sheet, turn it over to the mechanic. And if it’s something that’s going to affect the bus, the mechanics pull it off route and put them in a spare bus.”

An inspector, though, helps to find imperfections missed by both driver and mechanic, such as rust on the frame underneath the bus.

“The inspectors will look under them and find those things,” Oester said. “Our mechanics do a thorough inspection in the summer, when we have all the buses here and they have the downtime to go through it all, and that’s when they do all the major repairs on the bus for the fall.”

Harms said she is impressed with the mechanics’ efforts.

“I’ve been out here a short time, but I’ve never been more impressed with what these people do,” she said. “It’s a whole other world and they keep things running unbelievably.”