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May 27, 2010  |   Comments (8)   |   Post a comment

South Carolina DOE buys buses from Kentucky districts


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COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina Department of Education (DOE) has purchased 86 used school buses from Kentucky school districts.

To bid on the buses at an auction, the DOE used money it obtained from selling to scrap metal companies the skeletal remains of South Carolina buses disassembled for replacement parts.
 
Although the South Carolina General Assembly approved an annual bus replacement cycle in 2007, it has not provided any funds to upgrade the state’s oldest-in-the-nation bus fleet in the last two years.
 
State Superintendent of Education Jim Rex said that buying the Kentucky buses, which have an average age of 18 years, would allow his agency to retire 26- and 27-year-old buses that have 450,000 miles. Those retired vehicles will be cannibalized for parts to service other old buses in South Carolina’s fleet for which parts are expensive or hard to find.
 
“This obviously isn’t the ideal solution,” Rex said. “New buses are more reliable and require fewer repairs. They have better safety features and emission controls, and they get better mileage. But we’ve got to do the best we can with the resources we have. These used buses come very cheap, and they’re far newer than the 26- and 27-year-old vehicles they’re replacing.”
 
Rex went on to say that the DOE staff evaluated all of the buses offered at auction by a consortium representing many Kentucky districts. The agency eventually bid on 87 vehicles and won 86. South Carolina’s bids ranged from $2,864 to $4,500, with an average bid of $3,826.
 
As a point of comparison, Donald Tudor, director of the DOE’s office of transportation, said the current price of a replacement bus engine and transmission is more than $5,700. Tudor said that costs of major component repairs to aging buses have risen by 500 percent over the past seven years as the state’s fleet has aged.

The 86-bus purchase is the second time that South Carolina has bought used schools buses at auction in Kentucky. The DOE bought 73 1992 model year vehicles in 2005. Tudor said that Kentucky buses are purchased on specifications similar to South Carolina’s, and agency mechanics are comfortable servicing them.
 
Meanwhile, Rex has called upon the General Assembly to conduct a detailed, comprehensive study of the state's overall tax structure and to develop an adequate, equitable and efficient state revenue system. He said the on-again, off-again funding to replace aging school buses is evidence of a dysfunctional process.

“Riding a school bus is unquestionably the safest way for students to get to and from school each day,” Rex said. “But until the General Assembly starts appropriating the funds for annual infusions of new vehicles, we’ll continue to see unacceptable numbers of breakdowns and delays in transporting students. Adopting an annual replacement cycle doesn’t mean much if you don’t appropriate the funds to actually do it.”

Rex has told legislators that next year’s proposed budget for student transportation will not be enough to operate buses through the entire school year unless diesel fuel prices are lower than expected. If bus operating funds run out, Rex said the DOE likely would ask the General Assembly either for an emergency appropriation or for permission to run a deficit.
 
Rex also said that the DOE would continue to monitor other states that might make used buses available for purchase. The agency plans to purchase a total of 130 used buses before the beginning of the next school year.
 
A 2005 national report card by the nonprofit organization Union of Concerned Scientists said that South Carolina had the nation’s largest percentage of school buses manufactured prior to 1990 (60 percent).

Tudor said that retiring nearly all of South Carolina’s 1984 and 1985 model buses would leave 149 1986 model buses as the oldest in South Carolina’s fleet.


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All the counties want to take over their school buses,but they can't. Even if Beaufort and Charleston have durham school service,they still can't change their buses. They just have better training with Durham school service. Still got the 1988 blue bird and older buses.They just need to let the counties take care of their buses,if they let that happen im sure in a few years you won't see no more 1988s blue bird buses or older on the road in South Carolina.

staten    |    Feb 11, 2011 03:01 PM

I am sure many issues come to play in how the "Powers that be" decide to operate the bus procurement system in South Carolina. Availability of funding being the most obvious. Turning older busses into newer busses for little money seems pretty smart. We want the best for our children and usally when funding allows for it they get it. But creative thinking during hard times warrents a pat on the back. And, as far as NY....please!

Bobby B    |    Jan 06, 2011 07:37 AM

i haven't seen any of kentucky buses in my county, im sure there up state south Carolina. wish all the south carolina counties will just take over there buses.if you live in south carolina and u driving behind one of thoese 1988 blue bird buses it smell bad. you can here that bus a mile away, i hate thoes thing. second oldest bus is the thomas Er, thoese buses are good to uses, rides good. like i said Beaufort and Charleston counties do Durham School Service. i seen alot of thomas built c2 and Hdx in Beaufort and Charleston counties. the only two counties that take over there buses. i think South Carolina need to find a different way to get new buses to replace the 20-27 years old buses. the old buses break down alot with the new buses they don't. who ever is the department of transportation for south carolina need to be fired.

staten    |    Nov 04, 2010 05:04 AM

I live in south carolina the oldest but that needs to be replace is the 1988 blue bird buses.My districts only have a few of the old buses. some county like beaufort and charleston county have there own buses. its up to the counties of south carolina if they want to take over their own buses.But my county dont do that,like i said we only have a few of the 1988 buses. we replace most of them with thomas c2 and hdx buses. Anoymous i like your idea south carolina need to get new buses. i had herd that the state of south carolina are buying usesd buses from kentucky counties that are 18 years old is kind of dum, our buses are like 20-27 years old

staten    |    Aug 23, 2010 06:06 AM

South Carolina transportation program doesn't have anything to do with the Southern School Districts getting with the program. This is issues that South Carolina have dealt with for a long time now. And it sad to see that the people of South Carolina dosen't take pride in what there children are riding in. I'm a bus driver that drive in the State of Gerogia and the district I work for know the imporant of students transportation.

Anonymous    |    Jun 01, 2010 03:35 PM

If the state owned bus system is not working then why not divide the buses up among the districts and let the districts replace them themselves like most states do. It seems like that would be the best idea.

Nathan B    |    May 31, 2010 03:58 PM

It is 2010 people! How is it that the southern states drive students in old hand me down buses? All states should be following NY State. I would never drive a bus that is over 12 years old. When something happens, they blame the driver for the accident. Get with the program Southern School Districts! These students could be your children.

Robin B    |    May 29, 2010 05:33 AM

I cannot, under any circumstance, see how any education system would buy these used buses. They are transporting the most prescious cargo on the road. The safety improvements alone that have come into being on school buses, with the years, makes it all worth while to go for newer ones. I can only count my blessings that I don't have children riding on SC school buses. I also count my blessings that I don't drive a SC school bus. NY State gave us the absolute best equipment to drive for buses. If SC can't afford better equipment, why don't they sell off their equipment, let out bids for transportation, and go for contract busing? SC can regulate the type of equipment, as well as go for the bid that suits their needs. Each district could hire their own Transportation Director to over see the Company. Might not be satisfactory to SC, but it worked for districts I worked for.

Vi Johnston    |    May 27, 2010 07:08 PM

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