The latest inspections by the Michigan State Police have cataloged problems in the state's school bus fleet.
And according to Francis Donnelley of the Detroit News "small, rural school districts were experiencing the most problems with their buses during the 2013-14 school year."
According to the "School Bus Inspection Results for School Year 2014" issued by the Michigan State Police, 1,739 buses out of the 16,984 in the state's fleet failed inspection.
Some counties had worse records than others.
- In Mason County Central, 13 of 18 buses failed inspection.
- In Ubly Community Schools in the Michigan Thumb, 9 of 12 failed.
- In Vestaburg Community Schools in central Michigan, 9 of 9 buses failed.
Inspected buses were given a rating of "Red", "Yellow" or "Pass". As defined by the Michigan State Police:
The "RED" column indicates that during the inspection procedure, these buses were found to be in an unsafe condition. Michigan law requires the repair of all red tag items before placing that bus back into passenger service.
The "YELLOW" column indicates the number of school buses found in an unsatisfactory condition, but are safe for operation. These school buses by law must be repaired within 60 days of the original inspection date.
The "PASS" column indicates the total number of school buses that are considered to be in satisfactory condition.
Statewide, the number of buses that did not receive a "Pass" rating rose from 7.6% in 2011-12 to 9.5% in 2012-13 and 10.2% in 2013-14, according to the News.
A state police official discounted the increases, however, saying the failure rate rises and falls indiscriminately as school districts replenish their fleets.
Randy Coplin, the assistant commander of the commercial vehicle enforcement division, says "the trend is cyclic."
Coplin notes that possible reasons for the difference between urban and rural districts, besides the age of buses, could be a school system's budget, and the quality of roads and mechanics.
- Ari Sandberg, Michigan Radio Newsroom