Nearly 50 Percent Of Church Buses Have Safety Violations
For congregations across Ohio, church is more than Sunday morning. And buses play a vital role.
Dave Rowland of North Royalton Baptist Church said, "The kids are entrusted into our care and we want to ensure that they are safe."
And when inspected, the North Royalton Baptist Church bus passed with flying colors.
But News Channel 5 found scores of other buses that show up for inspection and flunk. And it happens more than you might think.
News Channel 5 found hundreds of safety violations including bad tires, broken lights, faulty emergency doors and leaking exhausts.
Eighty-seven of 191 buses failed inspection.
Lt. C. Tracy Williams Jr. of the Ohio Highway Patrol said examples included, "Fluid leaks, major rust and holes in the buses, problems with the exhaust system, problems with the brakes systems."
One Cleveland church bus crashed a year ago while heading to Mississippi. Investigators said a rear tire blew out. One woman was killed and five people were injured.
"It's hard to lose a member. It's even harder to lose them in a situation which should have been a blessed time," Pastor Roger Gavin of the Bibleway Community Church said.
In Ohio, church buses are inspected just once a year.
A representative from Cleveland City Mission said some buses are too expensive to fix.
The Rev. Richard Trickel, City Mission executive officer said, "We took one of our buses out of service because it did not pass and it was not reasonable to correct it."
The On Your Side investigation found 45 percent of church buses show up for inspection with numerous safety violations.
State police say those conditions could exist for days, or even months, before buses undergo that once-a-year inspection.
"What they do throughout the ongoing year is usually the unknown factor," Williams said.
At Cleveland Baptist Church, seven of 16 buses flunked inspection. NewsChannel5 found safety violations including problems with brakes, tires and lights.
"Most of the stuff they find is minor stuff, lights out, things like that. There's usually no major stuff. But if they didn't do it, no telling what would happen," Bill Hutcherson of Cleveland Baptist Church said.
After repairs were made, all buses passed inspection.
But state police insist there's no such thing as a minor violation.
Williams explained, "The standards exist for a reason...and that's the safe operation of the vehicle on the roadway."
News Channel 5 found some church buses had to be inspected two and three times before finally passing.
State inspectors worry that some are more than 20 years old, making maintenance even more important.