Drivers say fleet is broken; Durham says it only owns 1/3 of Charleston buses

By Ava Wilhite

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) One year has passed since Durham bus drivers held a town hall meeting to discuss the safety conditions of the fleet. Since then, drivers say very little has changed.

Several Durham bus drivers stood{}up at Monday night's school board meeting and{}told board members there is mold, roaches on the buses, and overall conditions are poor. Drivers say buses continue to break down because of exhaust problems, and are often late to school because they need assistance on the road.

{}"You have to wait, you know, for a mechanic to come and assist you or we have to get another driver to help out," says Tymeisha Russ, a bus driver and Charleston Count School District parent. {}

On Tuesday morning, Durham officials responded with a statement saying that less than one-third of the buses in the Charleston County fleet are owned and maintained by the bus company.

"Of the 364 buses we operate in Charleston, less thanone third are owned and maintained by Durham. We do not own nor do we maintainthe state buses and there is a stark contrast between these fleets.{} Weshare concerns about the state's aging fleet and hope we can work inpartnership to address this problem," the statement read.{}

The statement goes on to say that all Durham buses are inspected by the Department of Transportation and each driver is charged with inspecting their buses at the beginning of each route.{}

Those inspections have the attention of state Rep.{}Wendell Gilliard.

Gilliard says he's sent a letter to the state superintendent requesting a comprehensive safety inspection of all buses.

"Here we are a year later and these problems still persist. We have to listen to the people, listen to the drivers -- they know, they know what the answers are," said Gilliard. {}

Gilliard says he has not heard back from Superintendent Mick Zais on the request.

The teamsters union representing Durham bus drivers, who renewed their contract with the drivers last April.{}