More than 7,000 school buses take children to and from Alabama public schools every day; however, have you ever considered the lifespan of the tires on your child’s bus?
“It’s a hazard,” said Beasley Allen principal Rick Morrison during an interview with WSFA 12 News. Morrison, who has been with Beasley Allen more than 15 years, specializes in personal injury and product liability cases, especially those involving defective tires.
The most difficult issue surrounding tire aging is that there is currently no federal regulation, despite manufacturers recommending that tires be replaced after between six and 10 years. Morrison has handled many tire defect cases around the nation and believes after six years of age, a tire should be required to be replaced.
“In 2005, Ford and Chrysler came out and said six years. Based on our testing and our studies, don’t use that tire,” said Morrison during an interview with WSFA 12 News. “It doesn’t matter what it looks like.”
WSFA 12 News investigated the subject firsthand, only to discover that several school buses in Alabama had tires older than six years. Some buses had tires up to nine years old. Some Autauga County school buses had three tires older than six years, the news team reported.
“What I did immediately was call my transportation supervisor and say I want all those tires off the buses,” Superintendent Spence Agee said once WSFA 12 News discussed their findings with him.
“We have 151 buses and each one is inspected every month,” Ray Mullino, Elmore County Transportation Director, explained to WSFA 12 News about its policy, which requires all Elmore County vehicle tires to be replaced on their seventh year.
Although it is state policy to inspect school tires for tread depth, condition and inflation, federal standards do not touch on the issue of tire lifespan. In a statement to WSFA 12 News, Director of Transportation for the Department of Education Joe Lightsey said the department’s position is that removing “perfectly good tires” from a school bus due to their age would create a huge strain on the school system’s already underfunded budget.
Montgomery Public School (MPS) buses were also investigated by WSFA 12 News; however, no instances of tires older than six years were found. Tom Salter, an MPS spokesman, told WSFA 12 News that new tires are commonly used on MPS buses, but reportedly last “approximately 18 months.” Salter said that while they have recapped bus tires in the past, they only do it once and the tire must meet very specific guidelines in order to be considered for recapping.
To check a tire for its age, look on the side of the tire for a four-digit code following the “DOT” code. The code defines the first two digits as the week of the year the tire was manufactured, while the second two digits represent the year. For example, a tire made in the 20th week of 2014 will feature a code of 2014.
For more information about tire age and safety, contact Rick Morrison at Rick.Morrison@beasleyallen.com or call 334-269-2343 or 800-898-2034.
Watch the full investigative report at WSFA 12 News.
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