Monday, February 12, 2001

Ohio buses under scrutiny

Highway patrol begins inspections on 5,000 vehicles

The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — The Ohio State Highway Patrol began inspections of about 5,000 privately owned buses and shuttles last week.

        And the Ohio Bus Owners Association welcomes the scrutiny.

        Nearly a year ago, the bus owners group began calling for regular state inspections.

        Executive Director Norm Murdock said the industry needed to protect its image at a time when some well-publicized charter-bus accidents in other states could have put tour buses in a bad light.

        “We're very happy,” Tom Goebel, president of Lakefront Lines, said as highway patrol inspectors looked for safety violations in a new, $390,000 coach in the company's 17th Avenue garage. “The roads will be safer, and people will be safer.”

        Inspector Milan Orbovich said that of the 30 buses he examined last week, only three failed — and those involved minor problems that were soon corrected.

        Patrol Col. Ken Merckel said the law makes Ohio a national leader in bus-safety inspections.

        “A shiny bus and chrome lug nuts do not mean the undercarriage is sound,” he said. “We went from a very random system of inspections that was putting our citizens at risk to a premiere program that is becoming a model for other states.”

        Rep. Rex Damschroder sponsored legislation that became law in September requiring annual safety inspections and proof of insurance before buses could be licensed.

        The patrol began notifying operators of buses and shuttles that carry more than 15 passengers of the required $100-per-bus inspections.

        After May 1, new license plates will be issued only with papers certifying a zero-defect inspection. After July 1, buses must display safety-inspection decals on both sides.

        “We want to be No.1 in public safety,” said Mr. Damschroder, a Fremont Republican who chairs the House Transportation and Public Safety Committee.

        The law does not apply to school or church buses, which are inspected under a separate patrol program. Nor does it apply to buses operated by public entities such as the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority, operators of the Metro bus system.

        Greyhound cross-country buses and tour buses based in other states are not affected by the new law, but patrol officials say they are still subject to the spot inspections the patrol has long conducted.


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