First Student VPs address issues of bus maintenance, student safety

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by KMOV.com staff

KMOV.com

Posted on February 12, 2014 at 5:29 PM

Updated Friday, Mar 7 at 10:24 PM

(KMOV.com) — Top officials for the largest transportation company in North America finally responded to requests for interviews Wednesday. 

Since a News 4 investigation began weeks ago we have heard from bus drivers and parents all over the country complaining about huge safety concerns on First Student buses.

Everything from lack of heat to doors and tires falling off buses has been cited by concerned parties as evidence of an inexcusable refusal to properly maintain the buses.

Last month, after First Student bus was in an accident in St. Louis,  an investigation revealed it had out of state plates, rusty and jagged edges, a broken horn and broken radio.

First Student Vice President Al Muglach apologized for that particular bus, but said he did not believe it pointed to long term safety issues across the fleet. 

But dozens of drivers now tell News 4 that buss was just one example of what they call horrible conditions they encounter every day.

The reason, they say, is a company-wide program we discovered in a secret memo.

For every dollar saved on repairs and maintenance, managers get big bonuses.

Muglach said he had seen the memo, and denied it was a safety concern. 

“I do not think it puts kids in danger,” he said.  

First Student contracts with 18 districts in St. Louis, carrying 80,000 kids  in the city alone.

Tens of thousands more in the metro area. The company is paid with residents’ tax dollars.

Lawmakers in Jefferson City were so concerned by what they’ve seen, they have filed a bill that would crack down on First Student and other private bus companies.

The legislation would ban them from doing their own inspections and require they make all inspection records public.

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