Tuesday, September 05, 2000

School buses brakes checked

Some have recalled Bendix anti-locks

By James Pilcher
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        School officials throughout the Tristate say bus service should not be disrupted this morning, even though brake systems on as many as 45,000 buses nationwide soon will be recalled.

        Bendix, of Elyria, Ohio has reported that a defect that causes temporary loss of stopping power has emerged in one of its heavy-duty anti-lock brake systems.

        Since 1998, the company has distributed a total of 300,000 of the systems as original equipment, primarily for heavy trucks but also for school buses.

        Bendix has recommended that the manufacturers issue a recall. Company spokesman Rick Batyko said Bendix has registered 40 incidents of temporary failure, including 16 on buses, with only five minor truck accidents and no injuries reported.

        “We can't do it directly, but we're working with the manufacturers to set it up,” Mr. Batyko said Monday. “And we'll replace them at our cost, of course.”

        The specific mechanical problem is with the system's electronic control unit. There have been reports of chafed wires and worn tone rings inside the wheel sending incorrect messages to the unit.

        Mr. Batyko said the control unit should be able to correctly read the signals despite the damaged wires and rings, but is not doing so, meaning all units need to be replaced.

        Mr. Batyko said affected vehicles have air brakes, were made in 1998 or later and have Bendix anti-lock brakes.

        He said that if systems are functioning perfectly, and a visual inspection does not uncover chafed wires or worn tone rings, vehicles can still operate.

        Mechanics at many area districts and trucking companies spent Labor Day checking, just in case.

        The four vendors that transport most of Cincinnati Public and parochial students made checks. CPS spokeswoman Jan Leslie said, “service should not be affected.”

        Petermann bus service reported 29 of its buses had the Bendix brakes in question, but had examined brakes on all those vehicles Monday and found no problem. The combined fleet of the four vendors includes about 333 buses.

        David Query, superintendent of Kings Local Schools in Warren County, also said service should run as normal today. At least two buses in that district were involved, but no problems were found.


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