(Charleston, S.C.) – Teamster school bus drivers were joined by parents, community, political and faith leaders, as well as representatives from Teamsters Local 509, at Monday night’s Charleston County School Board meeting. They raised safety and service concerns with Durham School Services, the transportation contractor for Charleston County schools.
The drivers raised serious safety and service issues, including cockroaches and mold on the buses, as well as bus overcrowding and breakdowns. The drivers shared personal experiences and examples of their concerns.
“It’s not safe for our kids to ride on these Durham buses. It’s just not safe,” said Latrisha Pringle, a 20-year driver and member of Teamsters Local 509 in West Columbia, S.C. “We have mold and mildew on the buses. We also have roaches on the buses. This is a public safety issue. We’ve been bringing up these problems for months and nothing is getting fixed by Durham. We need a safe, reliable company so we can do our jobs and take care of these kids.”
“As a Durham school bus driver and a parent, I am angry that my daughter is left standing on the street corner on a regular basis waiting for a school bus that never comes,” said Tymeisha Russ, a two-year Durham driver in Charleston. “As drivers we do our best to transport the children, given this company that we work for and their approach to student transportation. Buses break down or they never even leave the lot. It’s unreliable.”
“The Teamsters Union supports our members at Durham School Services in their effort to raise these very serious issues of school bus safety. We will continue to stand with our drivers, the parents and community members in fighting for the safety of our schoolchildren,” said L.D. Fletcher, President of Teamsters Local 509.
Dot Scott, President of the Charleston chapter of the NAACP, spoke out about the impact poor school bus transportation service has on the community.
“Durham’s record in our community is unacceptable. The parents and families in our community deserve to have a school bus company that puts the safety of the kids and respect for the drivers first. We need more than empty promises; we need a company that stands by their word,” Scott said.
“I was privileged to speak alongside our bus drivers at a town hall meeting a year ago on the school bus safety concerns facing our students in Charleston. It is nearly a year later, and the overcrowding and bus breakdowns appear to be worse than ever. That is why we all came here tonight to bring these issues to the decision makers in our school district,” said Rep. Wendell Gilliard (111th District). “Also, after hearing from parents and community members, and out of concern for the safety of the children and the drivers, I have written to State Superintendent Mick Zais, requesting him to conduct a comprehensive safety inspection of all Durham School Services and county-owned school buses in Charleston County.”
Issues with Durham School Services have hit a fever pitch after more than a year of drivers voicing problems with the contractor to no resolution, including at a town hall meeting in April 2013.
A survey of Durham school bus drivers in Charleston last year revealed that two-thirds experienced a breakdown with students onboard and 60 percent reported being required to transport students over capacity.
Durham is the second-largest school bus company in the United States and a subsidiary of National Express Group PLC, a United Kingdom-based multinational transportation company.
Drive Up Standards is a national campaign to improve safety, service and work standards in the private school bus and transit industry. Since the campaign began in 2006, more than 36,500 drivers, monitors, aides, attendants and mechanics have become Teamsters.
For information on the Teamsters Drive Up Standards campaign, go to http://www.driveupstandards.org.
Founded in 1903, the Teamsters Union represents 1.4 million hardworking men and women throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Visit www.teamster.org for more information. Follow us on Twitter @Teamsters and “like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/teamsters.