Lawrence Gilly, who has been driving school buses for the Sweetwater Union High School District for 21 years, felt compelled to stand before the board of trustees on May 13 and advise them of the status of bus safety.
For the second year in a row, Sweetwater’s terminal received an “unsatisfactory safety compliance rating” after being inspected by the California Highway Patrol.
Obtained through a public record request by the Reader, the CHP Terminal Inspection Report for 2013 states, “This terminal is rated unsatisfactory as prescribed by the following criteria: An unsatisfactory-rated terminal…is one showing widespread noncompliance with, or willful disregard of, regulatory requirements.”
The specifics of the report include: “Failure to participate in the DMV Pull Notice Program, failure to enroll all drivers, failure to obtain periodic (up to date) printouts for all drivers”; “Motor carrier utilizing unqualified drivers”; “Violations generally spread over all vehicles and/or maintenance violations which by their nature should have been detected and corrected under an effective inspection/maintenance program.”
Three buses were taken out of service for violations such as: “steering gear box mounting fasteners loose, gear box loose at frame rail; Axle housing U-bolts broken/loose axle…”
A spokesperson for the California Highway Patrol said on May 28, “Our job is to ensure and maintain proper working conditions, and we don’t fool around when it comes to correcting things.”
Typically, the officer said, an unsatisfactory report would be brought to the board of trustees (by the director of transportation, for example) and a plan of action would be put together. “In a worst-case scenario, the superintendent could be fined. That has happened in the state of California,” the officer added.
“We could come back at any time and inspect them at any time. Generally, the highway patrol likes to do things in a measured way.”
In a May 27 interview, Lawrence Gilly said he believes things in the Sweetwater district’s transportation department “are going downhill. Bus drivers have to go through 40 hours of training and continually upgrade their training. We go through background checks. Why is this a recurring problem at our terminal when we’re dealing with precious cargo? Safety should be our number-one issue.”