ATLANTA - On a chilly Monday morning in February, tow truck operators fanned out across the city.
Their job was to pick up broken down Atlanta Public School buses and tow them in for repairs. The FOX 5 I-Team documented seven school buses, broken down, and towed in during one school morning.
Greg Greeson, of South Metro Towing, told me it wasn't unusual and happened all the time.
In fact, our examination of school records showed nearly 3 school buses every day have to be towed, costing the Atlanta school system more than $65,000 last year. And once those buses break down, it can sometimes take months before they are repaired.
John Franklin is the APS transportation director: “If a bus is breaking down on the roads, then students are being affected.” Franklin says, “It’s not anything we want.”
When we checked the fleet records, we found 95 out of the city's 407 buses were in the shop. 23% of the entire fleet was out of commission.
“That is unacceptably high,” says Franklin.
Franklin hopes the hiring of more mechanics, and better training for the mechanics on staff, as well as the purchase of new buses will create a better fleet for students and parents.
The constant breakdowns often cause bus drivers to have to pick up a second route, at times, causing delays for parents and children.
Ray Burgess, an APS parent told us simply: “It doesn't seem as they have enough buses to get around.”
The city spent more than $140,000 last year in outside maintenance fees, trying to fix the problems.
Our investigation also found the city is so far behind, that 105 school buses were not inspected in January, as required by state law. Those monthly inspections show a shopping list of problems ranging from bad brakes, to bad tires to warning lights that don't work.
John Franklin says his driver's do pre and post trip inspections to check for unsafe conditions. His maintenance crew has worked overtime, and he brought in more outside mechanics to get all those January inspections done by this week.
He wants the problems fixed. “My singular focus is to get buses inspected, so our parents can be confident again,” he told me. “No one is shying away from situation, we're running to it. We want to fix it.”