CCS earns perfect bus safety scores for fourth-straight year

Published 3:54 pm Wednesday, March 13, 2024

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By Carey Reeder | Managing Editor

The Chilton County Schools Transportation Department entered into a rarified bracket in March earning its fourth consecutive perfect score on its bus safety inspections conducted by the Alabama State Department of Education.

The inspections, which happen each year in all 67 counties across the state, conducted over 9,600 checkpoints on the 128 school buses in the CCS fleet. In the end, not a single major safety infraction was found by the inspectors, earning CCS its fourth straight perfect score.

“I am super proud of them and this takes everybody, not just one or two people, and you have to be conscious about it all year long,” CCS Transportation Supervisor Mark Cleckler said. “Once you learn what it takes to get that score, you know what you have to do every day, every week in and week out, to make it happen again. Once they got to that level, they knew what it took, and it is just a lot of hard work.”

The state inspections consist of everything to do with the safety of the school bus from inside and out. From the emergency exits and motor, which have the most time and checkpoints issued to them during inspections, to cracked windshields, burnt out safety lights and more. The state raises each bus with a lift and goes under it with flashlights to conduct a thorough inspection as well. Things as small as a faded front sign or too soft of padding on seats are major infractions that could dock points during the inspections.

The inspections can find minor issues that do not affect the perfect score. As minor infractions are found during the state inspections, the CCS shop’s mechanics will fix them on the spot to make sure they are tended to promptly.

The biggest things that CCS saw this year during their inspections were brake adjustments as one model of bus in its fleet was wearing down one side of the brakes more than the other.

“That is some of the things we cannot see unless we specifically look for them, but now that we know that is a problem with a particular bus, we will be on top of it,” Cleckler said.

The shop conducts its own monthly inspections throughout the year that addresses a lot of the checkpoints that state inspections check out. If something is found by the team, it is addressed right then rather than being pushed off, which helps keep the high level of consistency in safety the department has become known for.

The CCS Transportation Department expects to get a perfect score each year, and state inspectors have said that to get one or two perfect scores is great, however, four consecutively is unheard of. Cleckler said shop foreman Glen Johnson, who is a 17-year veteran of the shop starting out as a mechanic, does a great job at leading the team and having them motivated throughout the year.

“We take pride in the work we do to ensure the safety for all of our students and bus drivers,” Johnson said. “Us here at the bus shop have a great team, as well as the bus drivers that work well together to ensure everyone’s safety.”

Cleckler and Johnson occasionally take trips to other shops in nearby counties to see how they do their work on a daily basis, and how CCS stacks up against them. Anything they find that is useful is brought back to Chilton County as the shop continues to be a leader in safety for school children.

“We always ask the state people, ‘Are we the best?’” Cleckler said. “They said we are right there at the top, and maybe Phenix City might be a little better. I looked at Glen and said ‘We will be going to Phenix City.’ It is always good to be a continual learner and keep getting better. It is all about the kid’s safety. If those buses are checking out, then we can all feel pretty good about carrying our kids.”