by Raymond P. Martinez, chairman and chief administrator of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission
As students gather at bus stops across New Jersey for the new school year, it is important to stress that school bus safety is a top priority for the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC).
By requiring all school transportation vehicles to pass through a meticulous inspection process and drivers to meet specific, mandated state and federal standards, the MVC takes every step necessary to ensure that all of New Jersey’s 24,000 student transportation vehicles make the grade all year long.
But the MVC cannot do it alone. The MVC, New Jersey school districts and school bus companies must be strong partners to fully ensure student safety.
While the MVC’s School Bus Inspection Unit performs over 60,000 bi-annual school vehicle inspections at 1,300 locations, there still exists a need for ongoing, committed participation from the state’s school districts and bus companies to confirm that everything possible is being done to maintain safe student transportation.
The MVC encourages school districts and bus companies to be diligent when it comes to performing regular bus maintenance and in keeping accurate and up-to-date vehicle and driver records. It is also imperative that only fully qualified drivers be permitted to get behind the wheel of a school bus. Through teamwork, all three groups can play an invaluable role in maintaining the safety of the state’s school buses and the students riding in them.
The MVC will do its part to keep students safe by continuing to require school transportation vehicles to adhere to its detailed School Bus Inspection Program that examines 180 items on each and every school bus, school vehicles, dual-purpose vehicles and summer camp vehicles.
At the completion of inspection, school transportation vehicles can be issued an approval; an out-of-service rejection, which is issued for major defects such as brakes and steering; or a 30-day rejection, given for minor defects such as an item missing from the emergency kit or even a burned-out light bulb.
Due to the MVC’s rigorous process, an average of 48 percent of vehicles are issued out-of-service rejections at initial inspection, while an average of 13 percent are issued 30-day rejections after corrective action is taken and upon re-inspection, approximately 95 percent of vehicles are approved. Results for school vehicle inspections are contained in our School Bus Report card and are available to the public at www.njmvc.gov.
In addition to the standard bi-annual inspections, the MVC’s School Bus Inspection Unit and the New Jersey State Police, which together make up the School Bus Safety Task Force, also perform monthly, unannounced inspections. These random spot checks allow the MVC to keep an eye on school bus fleets about which it may have lingering concerns and also to see if companies are performing routine maintenance on their vehicles.
The MVC’s message is clear and our partnership with school districts and bus companies is strong. Together, that should bring peace of mind to parents as they say good-bye to their children each day at the bus stop.
Raymond P. Martinez is the Chairman and Chief Administrator of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission.
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