Design flaw in brake system prompts massive school bus recall

Posted on September 4, 2000
A potential defect in an antilock brake system (ABS) believed to have been installed in 46,000 school buses has prompted at least one school bus manufacturer to issue a recall.Thomas Built Buses in High Point, N.C., has recalled 6,000 school buses built between March 1998 and August 2000. The buses are equipped with ABS units manufactured by Bendix Corp. of Elyria, Ohio.Officials at Freightliner Corp., the Portland, Ore.-based parent of Thomas Built Buses, said school buses with air brakes and the Bendix ABS system could lose braking capability for up to four seconds when traveling under 20 mph.A Bendix representative said that only under "very rare circumstances" would the brakes fail entirely. However, he added that there have been 16 reported incidents involving buses in which the brakes failed, none resulting in accidents or injuries.Bendix has recommended that all school bus manufacturers that have installed the brake system, including Thomas, Blue Bird Corp. and International Truck and Engine Corp., issue recalls.In an Aug. 30 letter sent to hundreds of customers, Thomas officials said the braking system's electronic control sensors could misinterpret signals from the wheels, resulting in loss of braking capability in one or more wheel positions.Thomas officials said all of the affected buses should be inspected and, ultimately, should have the electronic control units replaced. Officials said repair kits are being manufactured by Bendix and will be shipped by November.Freightliner said its dealers would be available around the clock to inspect Thomas buses. For more information about the Thomas recall, customers can call 800/FTL-HELP or their local Freightliner dealer.Meanwhile, Blue Bird officials said on Tuesday that their bus dealers in the United States and Canada have been informed of the potential problem and that owners will receive official notification in the next few days. Approximately 11,000 Blue Bird buses will need to have their ABS electronic control units replaced, officials said.For more information, Bendix has posted a recall FAQ (frequently asked questions) on its Website. Or you can call Bendix at 800/478-1793.
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