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DOT inspects school buses for new year

COLONIE -- State Department of Transportation inspectors spent the summer checking school buses to ensure they are safe for children when they return to school.

Basically we're an extra set of eyes that comes out. We check to make sure the operator is maintaining the vehicle on a regular basis. We do a lot of spot checks on the vehicle that makes sure are they actually maintaining the vehicles throughout the six months period between the inspections, said Thomas Ward, a bus safety supervisor with the DOT.

Inspectors check more than 400 items and could put a bus out of service for the day or longer depending on what needs to be fixed. Inspectors consider their program the most rigorous in the nation.

If you talk to some of the old time inspectors and mechanics, they'll tell you a lot of the regulations were written in blood. Somebody got hurt and that's why the regulation was put in place to prevent it from happening again, said Ward.

Statewide 93 percent of school buses pass inspection. Locally, the highest out-of-service percentage came from privately-owned Durham School Services, which is contracted to transport students in Albany, Schenectady and Troy.

State records from 2011-2012 show nearly 11 percent of its Troy-based fleet and more than 14-percent of its Albany buses were taken out of service.

The contractor's fleet is sometimes an older fleet because they're looking at the cause and value of the vehicle, but generally they're maintained by the same standard and they're all judged by the same standard, said Ward.

A spokesperson for Durham did not return our call seeking comment.

State inspectors said it doesnt matter whose name is on the side of the bus, they make sure the bus meets their high standards.

At the end of the day when we're done inspecting it might just as well be our name on the side of the bus instead of the school district name. Thats our bus for the day, said Ward. We verified that it's safe today and we take responsibility for that bus.

 To see your district's records for the last three years click here.