School bus drivers demands Richmond County Schools make a bus maintenance change


Drivers are pumping the brakes on Richmond County school busses. 

They say two of them caught fire a few months ago, and the fleet is not safe. 

The school board says it has corrected these maintenance issues, but the drivers and Council for the Transportation Department are coming forward. They say it’s been an ongoing problem dating back to 2005.

President of local 239 School Bus Drivers Union, Sallie Thomas, says, “Richmond County has had a bad reputation of not keeping their drivers and not treating their drivers well.”

Although retired, Thomas is one of many drivers who say the school board is taking the wrong turn when it comes to school bus maintenance. She says they were on the right track in 2005.

“When the bus drivers took the board of education to court,” says, Thomas.

She says that court case led to the creation of a Council for the Transportation Department. The council’s job was to oversee maintenance, but the council only lasted a few years. Driver’s say, since then, the issues have accelerated. 

Their complaints included odors and fumes coming from the bus terminal.

Director of Communications, Kaden Jacobs, says, “we’ve had the department of public health come out. They’ve done testing. there’s no odors, there’s no issues down here.”

The Georgia Department of Public Health checked things out and issued this statement. Inspectors say they didn’t smell the odor, but it could be from a nearby swamp, but that’s just the first stop.

Parent, Timothy Howards, says, “I have three kids in richmond county schools and two that ride the busses.”

He says he’s worried about the temperature on his children’s busses. 

“If we have a bus that is carrying 60 children and there are no air condition in that bus, that’s a health issue,” says Howard.

However, Jacobs says, “I think a lot of people will be surprised by this, but air conditioning is a luxury. It is not required by the state of Georgia.”

Thomas says she and her fellow drivers just want better working conditions.

“Better treatment, one, better pay. We are one of the lowest paying drivers in the state,” says Thomas.

Jacob says they make more than they’ve ever made. In Richmond County they get $13 an hour for a guaranteed seven and a half hours.

“We’re doing everything we can to make sure that our busses are high tech, that they are efficient and that we keep our students safe cause that’s really our ultimate goal,” says Jacobs.

Thomas gave a petition to the school board with more than 100 signatures to bring back the council for the department of transportation.

Jacobs says, if they see a need they would, but as of right now, everything has been up to standards.

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