EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP, N.J. — The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) kicked off its biannual school bus inspection program at the Egg Harbor Township Board of Education school bus maintenance garage last Thursday.
The back-to-school event was designed to promote the state's inspection program that looks at 24,000 student transportation vehicles twice a year, and to let parents know that the well-being of their children is a priority for the state.
"It was an opportunity for the public to actually see what goes on in an inspection," Warren Fipp, director of transportation for Egg Harbor Township Schools, told SBF in an interview. "Sometimes parents go online and see that a bus has failed an inspection and get nervous. However, a bus can fail if one of the bulbs goes out ... [or] there's gum on a seat belt."
The MVC's mobile inspection team performed a 180-point inspection on five Egg Harbor Township buses during the event. They will be continuing the inspections — which are usually performed at a rate of 11 buses per day, according to Fipp — over the next few weeks.
The district owns and operates 143 school buses, transports 8,600 students daily and travels 1.3 million miles annually. Fipp said the district was chosen to host the event due to its excellent safety record.
"They used our school facility because they thought it was one of the best in the state of New Jersey, so we are very happy about that," he explained.
During the kickoff event, a second-grade class from H.R. Swift Elementary School also inspected the buses.
"The students came in with little clipboards and got on a bus," Fipp said. "They did their own safety inspection and checked things off. They found that our buses were perfect."
MVC Chairman and Chief Administrator Raymond P. Martinez spoke at the event about the commission's commitment to school bus safety.
"As with the inspection of any school vehicle that transports children, MVC inspectors are meticulous in their efforts to detect major and minor defects," Martinez said. "It is this dedication to school bus safety that demonstrates to the citizens of New Jersey that we are providing a true benefit."
On average, of the vehicles scrutinized during the biannual inspection, 47.17 percent are placed out-of service, while 19.66 percent are issued 30-day rejection stickers. In most cases, the violations are addressed and re-inspected during the same visit.
Once they are re-inspected, approximately 91 percent are deemed safe for the road.
"The MVC inspection is probably one of the hardest ones in the United States," Fipp said. "But we support the inspection ... we consider [the MVC] to be a second set of eyes watching over our buses."
In addition to scheduled inspections, the MVC's School Bus Inspection Unit also performs monthly, unannounced inspections with the New Jersey State Police as part of the New Jersey School Bus Task Force. These inspections are performed to ensure that bus companies and school districts are keeping accurate records and completing regular maintenance on their buses.
Also, every school district performs a self-inspection on its buses every 3,000 miles.
"The inspections are important because we're not transporting apples and oranges, we're transporting children — the world's most precious cargo," Fipp said.