WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – With schools back in session, that means the return of school buses to area roads. But some of those buses could be at risk of catching fire, according to a new investigation by WBTV.
In our five-county area that includes Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, New Hanover, and Pender – every school district except for Bladen County uses at least some of the buses that have been pulled off the streets by at least one school district in North Carolina.
The engine in question is called the Maxx7 and it is used by International brand buses. The highest number of these buses are used in Columbus County, where there is a total of 16 buses with the Maxx7 engine, a dozen of which are used for Columbus County Schools – and four are used by Whiteville City Schools.
Pender and New Hanover counties both have five of these buses, while Brunswick County has seven.
In Iredell County, just north of Charlotte, a school bus caught fire in May and now the district has pulled all of the buses equipped with that Maxx7 from its fleet, according to WBTV.
When asked about the buses in Columbus County and if they had any concerns running them, WECT received a statement saying the buses have been used frequently and showed no problems.
“Columbus County Schools Transportation operates 12 of the International/Maxx7 buses for Columbus County Schools and 4 of the International/Maxx7 buses for Whiteville City Schools. The buses have been in operation for several years and have traveled 2,528,366 (approx 2.5 million) miles with no major issues. These buses are all on regular routes and are driven every day,” according to a statement from the school system.
“As with any transport vehicle, we adhere to strict 30 day maintenance routines, which include oil changes and oil analysis from outside vendors. CCS believes that our program of vigilant maintenance and careful monitoring makes this bus model, and all models, safe to operate for our students and staff, as well as the traveling public,” the statement concluded.
In Brunswick County where seven of the county’s 152 buses contain the Maxx7 engine, things are business as usual there as well. According to a statement from the school system, there has not been any sort of recall on the engines so all of the buses in the fleet will continue with routine maintenance.
“We haven’t had any significant issues with our buses but we change the oil and maintenance check each bus every 5,000 miles which is well below the state required every 10,000 miles. This of course helps extend the life of the engines and helps identify any potential issues before they turn into any kind of danger,” according to the school system. “Additionally, each year the Transportation Department visits each school to practice how to safely evacuate buses in a variety of emergency situations with the students.”
Neither New Hanover County Schools or Pender County Schools responded to WECT’s request for comment on their use of these buses by the time of publication.
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