As many as 4,000 school buses across the state might be missing a safety device that prevents the parking brake from accidentally disengaging.
Buses with automatic transmissions purchased after March 24, 2011, are required to have a brake interlock mechanism, according to a news release from the Virginia Department of Education. With the interlock, it is not possible to release the parking break without first depressing the brake pedal.
Automatic buses do not have a “park” setting, instead relying on a brake valve to be pulled after the bus is put in neutral. Without the interlock, the brake could accidentally disengage.
The VDOE tested individual buses purchased from leading manufacturers after March 2011 and found that none of them had the required interlock installed.
VDOE’s Office of Support Services is not aware of any incident in which anyone was injured by a bus inadvertently rolling. Spokeswomen for Newport News Public Schools and Hampton City Schools each said there was no known incidents of the brakes coming disengaged in their respective divisions, either.
In Newport News, 122 of the 335 buses in the fleet will need to have the interlock installed. Forty-one buses out of 212 in Hampton also need the safety device.
The state is surveying all 132 divisions to determine how many buses need the retrofitting. Dealers and manufacturers have been directed to submit plans detailing steps taken to fix buses at no expense to school divisions, the release said.
Installing the interlock can be done in about 90 minutes by factory or dealer technicians at the school division’s transportation facilities.
ODU, Apprentice School students graduate
Five shipbuilders-in-training saw the hard work they juggled for the past three years pay off as they graduated from Old Dominion University May 6.
They each completed bachelor’s degrees in either mechanical engineering or electrical engineering while also undergoing full-time marine engineering apprenticeships at Newport News Shipbuilding’s Apprentice School, according to a news release from ODU.
Their work was made possible by a partnership between ODU and the shipyard designed to give students a fusion of work experiences and academic training. In a typical week, apprentices in the program work full time three days and attend classes the other two days.
The newest graduates will complete their apprenticeships later this year and then begin work full time at the shipyard. The Class of 2017 was the second cohort of graduates, and nearly 40 students remain in the program.
Hammond can be reached by phone at 757-247-4951.