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August 22, 2013  |   Comments (2)   |   Post a comment

Wheel end assembly cited in school bus fire


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FORT VALLEY, Ga. — A fire on a Blue Bird propane school bus on Monday likely originated in a wheel end assembly and did not compromise the propane fuel tanks, an independent fire investigator found.

The fire occurred in East Ridge, Tenn. The bus was en route to be delivered to a dealership in another state. There was no one on the bus at the time of the fire, and the engine was off. There were no injuries.

Blue Bird immediately transported the bus to its facility in Fort Valley to complete a thorough investigation, company officials said in a statement. The preliminary review indicates that friction in the wheel end area likely caused the fire. Officials said that additional analysis will be conducted to confirm this theory. The company’s findings concluded that this was an isolated event.

Initial reports indicated that witnesses reported hearing two popping sounds at the scene. Those were confirmed to be the sound of the front tires rupturing from the heat of the fire.

The investigator confirmed that the multiple safety features in the engine, propane autogas system and fuel tanks performed as designed, and the propane fuel tanks were not compromised in the fire.

"This incident strongly reinforces the safety of the propane autogas system on our buses,” said Phil Horlock, president and CEO of Blue Bird Corp. “The safety record of Blue Bird propane autogas fueled engines in school buses is outstanding. There have been no propane-related fires or injuries with any of our school buses. All Blue Bird buses meet or exceed comprehensive federal and state safety specifications.”

“There are over 21 million propane-fueled vehicles on the road that travel hundreds of millions of miles a year, and propane has proven to be a safe and efficient fuel,” Horlock added. “At Blue Bird, safety is our top priority."


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Read more about: alternative fuels, Blue Bird Corp., bus fires, propane, Tennessee


Very good opinions and observations of this initial report on the new school bus catching fire. Just like any who holds a Commercial Driver License, delivery drivers are required to perform an inspection of any Commercial Vehicle before driving on roadways. The parking area where the bus was moved from would have a pool of oil where the vehicle sat for long period of time prior to scheduled delivery. The differential fluid fill log would show the punch list where the fluid levels were checked and verified. So long before it left the factory there should have been some inspection and fluid verification processes. Just as with our fleet of school buses returning from their morning routes, I'll take a look at their spots after all the buses clear the lot and after they all return to the lot. You can see allot by doing slow drive by spot inspections for leaks, low tires, broken light lenses, lights left on etc., so from the factory to the fleet end users we all have inspection procedures that work. Only if someone is working at doing their jobs they have agreed to perform. CDL inspections be it pre or post trip inspections are to be performed to make sure the vehicle is safe enough to be on the road doing the work the vehicle was designed for. Basically, who ever has their hands on the steering wheel at the time a failure occurs was the last one to inspect the vehicle before it was driven. If nothing was found - then it is assumed the failure occurs in transit. The back side of a tire with a blown or failed wheel seal will be wet with oil somewhere along the side wall. Smoke usually appears in spurts when the brakes are applied and the brake drum is very hot. Most assume with a new vehicle there should not be any fluid leaks so they don't bother with a very thorough on your knees looking up under the vehicle inspection. Is that what happened here? Possible. Was it possible the seal installation process went wrong or was done so fast they missed something? Possible. The

Dan Luttrell    |    Aug 24, 2013 06:57 AM

I like how the BB CEO focuses on the silver lining that the bus did blow up and how safe the propane system is but doesn't even acknowledge that a brand spanking new bus caught fire because they didn't put the wheel bearings/seal together correctly. In fairness, it is possible that the seal just failed, the oil ran out, and hit the hot brake drum and...fire! Judgement really should be reserved until all of the information is in. But it does illustrate how important it is that a driver do a thorough pre-trip and that a brand new bus should always get a thorough inspection before being put in service. The district I work for has developed an exhaustive "Post delivery inspection" to find these kinds of assembly errors and to make sure we got what we paid for. Just because it's new does not mean it's right.

MB    |    Aug 23, 2013 02:28 PM

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