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School bus driver: "Durham needs to be out of here."

School bus driver:

WCBD-TV: News, Weather, and Sports for Charleston, SC

From our News Partners at WCBD-TV:

There was a growing chorus of concern about school bus safety at Monday night's Charleston County School Board meeting.

The worries lie with Durham School Services, the company Charleston County contracts to provide school bus service to students. The company operates school bus services in three counties: Charleston, Dorchester District 2 and Beaufort.

During Monday night's meeting, Representative Wendell Gilliard (D-Charleston) announced that he has written a letter to State Superintendent Mick Zais asking him to review the safety records of all school buses in Charleston County.  He seemed particularly angry with Durham's performance.

"I've been around this whole country, and I have to say, [their service] is deplorable," Rep. Gilliard said. "You can't compare them to the other states."

Many parents also spoke out during Monday night's meeting, asking the school board to sever ties with the school bus company.

"If they're not doing their jobs, put them on the go," Tony Lewis said. "It's about our kids. It's not about Durham."

The school bus company has been under scrutiny in the past.

Last year, the company's drivers threatened to strike, saying the company didn't listen to their concerns and operated unsafe buses. For weeks, members of the Teamsters Union said they were going to stop showing up to work if the company didn't improve their relationships and dedication to school bus safety.

Several of those who spoke out last year, continued their cry for change Monday.

"Every morning we have buses breaking down," driver Latrisha Pringle said. "We have buses with no heat, headlights blown out, windshield wipers torn, tires frayed"

Pringle has been a bus driver for more than 20 years and began working with Durham back in 2007. She claims the company doesn't listen to her and her fellow co-workers when they raise concerns about bus safety and working conditions.  She also said that conditions have not improved since last year's possible strike.

"Nothing has changed. Nothing. They try to butter up things, but Durham hasn't done anything," Pringle claimed.

According to numbers provided to News 2 by the Teamsters Union, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has performed 305 inspections on Durham school buses over the last 24 months. During those inspections, the company was slapped with 178 violations. 14 of those are what the union calls, "severe" or repeat violations that call for the bus to be pulled from service immediately.

One of those was this school year when a school bus was found to have what the violation calls, "Inoperative/defective brakes."

Those violations have Pringle hoping the school board will cancel its contract with the company.

"Durham needs to be out of here," Pringle said. "I mean, I know [the school board] can find someone else we can work for and be safe with buses."

School board members did not discuss any of the issues raised by parents and drivers at their meeting. A spokesperson for the district did not return emails asking for comment for this story. Durham School Services also did not respond to emails or phone calls asking for their response to the concern.

Image courtesy of WCBD-TV.

 

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