Consumer Watchdog investigates why school buses are breaking down & getting kids to school late

70% of buses broke down at least once

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Broken buses towed from the side of the road. That's just the start of the safety issues we uncovered with your child's bus. Insiders who work on these buses, and drive them came to us to expose safety issues with the buses on our roads.

At 7:17 a.m. every morning, bus 0419 is supposed to roll into Erica Florea's neighborhood.

"Every day is an unknown," explained Florea. "We've been having issues where 7:20 a.m. no bus. 7:25 a.m.. So we call the bus depot and they say no bus is in route. It broke down somewhere," explained Florea.

Nine times. That's how often their bus broke down this school year, and those are just the ones we know about. Over the last week, parents say it's been late four times.

"We all have to get into our cars and drop off kids to school," explained Florea.

Florea said the kids are often late to school.

It's not just Florea's problem. It's a district wide problem. Their own records show that 70 percent of buses broke down at least once this school year.

"Very scary to think we are putting our children on unsafe vehicles. It's precious cargo," explained Florea. "I'm happy you are doing this. Hopefully it won't fall on deaf ears."

The district said there is nothing to expose.

"I'm not going to say we have a problem," explained Steve Bonino, Chief of Support Operations.

If there is no problem then why are district employees risking their jobs to speak out?

"I'm worried," explained the driver who did not want to be identified since he's been told not to speak.

"They don't want me to say nothing," explained shop foreman Jose Sarmiento. "My job is supposed to be to supervise to make sure buses are safe."

Sarmiento said what he sees on the job concerns him.

"Some buses on the road that should be off the road," explained Sarmiento.

Like bus 0050.

A driver told the district it's "dangerous with kids on the bus" because a tire was wobbling.

Bus 0842 had to be repaired 29 times this year.

Bus 336 caught fire on the side of I-95. Luckily there were no children on board.

Weeks before the bus was in the shop for leaking fuel. The cause of the fire has not been released.

The bus driver we spoke to said he is concerned for the safety of the children on the bus. We heard bus driver frustration over and over.

"Sometimes the mechanics tell you they have to order parts and those parts sometimes take forever," explained the driver.

Sarmiento agrees.

"We don't have the proper equipment to do the repairs so we have to do the repairs the best we can. It's bad," explained Sarmiento.

"I disagree with that," Bonino said.

Bonino said there is enough money to get parts for a bus on time if needed.

Bonino said the buses are old and that's the main issue. Almost half have been on the road more than 10 years.

We found it's not just a problem with older buses.

Bus 0989 broke down in the middle of MLK Boulevard in Riviera Beach last week. It's the second time in just over a month it had to be towed in for repairs. Plus, 0989 is one of the district's newest buses. It's only been on the road five years.

"We are not going to put any buses on the road that are not safe," explained Bonino.

Next year, 110 buses will be added.

"The desire with these new buses is to really rejuvenate the fleet and not have some of the complex problems we are having right now," explained Bonino. 

Complex problems now, downplayed minutes later.

We asked how many more buses are needed to fix the problem.

"Um, I am not going to say we have a problem. I am going to say we certainly have our challenges," explained Bonino.

We continued to press for the number of buses needed to fix the so-called challenge.

"I would love to see between 30 and 40 buses a year," explained Bonino.

Florea hopes it becomes a priority.

"I would definitely demand to see a change," explained Florea.

You can check how many times your bus has been in the shop this year by searching our database .

Share your bus stories on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #brokenbuses.

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