Just as the July 4 holiday weekend got underway news broke of a sweeping recall of school buses. According to an Associated Press report, republished by ABC News, “Blue Bird is recalling more than 2,500 All American school buses and some transit buses to fix a problem that could make steering more difficult. The company also is recalling a smaller number of school buses that may be prone to a propane fuel leak, according to paperwork filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.”
It will be worth keeping an eye on the NHTSA vehicle recall website over the next week or two for further details as this story develops. At this writing the NHTSA had not posted information about the Blue Bird recall, presumably because the company’s paperwork has not yet been completely processed. In the meantime, however, it is safe to say that it is difficult to imagine a clearer risk of injuries to children than a school bus with a steering or a fuel leak issue.
The AP story did not say how many school buses are affected by the steering-related recall notice, only that it involves “some buses made between 2011 and last May.” The story put the number of transit buses affected at 400, but did not say in which cities they are currently on the road. The fuel leak issue involves “388 Vision school buses made in 2012 or 2013,” the news agency reports.
As a Portland attorney who has written in the past about both injuries to children and vehicle recalls of various sorts I’m happy to see the recall notice being issued well before the beginning of the school year – with luck all of the vehicles in question can be fixed before classes begin again – but I am also disturbed to read that “the company has been monitoring the issue since last September” when it first received reports of problems. In other words: it knew about these issues throughout the just-concluded academic year but kept that information to itself. If there is any lesson that car, truck and bus manufacturers ought to have learned over the last few years – especially in light of General Motors’ current troubles – it is that earlier disclosure is almost always better when it comes to safety issues.
Whenever a company is found to have sat on information like this it is difficult for ordinary Oregonians not to conclude that the company is putting its business interests ahead of the public’s safety. At the very least the company might let Americans know in which cities the transit buses are being used, since those will be on the road year-round and not just during the school year.
AP via ABC News: Blue Bird Recalls School Buses for Steering Issue