• State fines school bus company for safety violations

    By: Alison Grande

    Updated:

    The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission fined First Student $23,700 for safety violations. 

    First Student provides school bus services to Seattle Public Schools, Tacoma Public Schools, and for students on Vashon Island, Tenino, Rochester, Colville and Chattaroy.

    The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission has regulatory authority when school buses are chartered to transport students for non-routine trips like field trips and school sporting events.  

    The UTC does not regulate home to school bus routes, but their regulatory authority gave them access to records for the entire company and the investigation, safety violations and fines are companywide.

    According to the Utilities and Transportation Commission, state inspectors found:

    • 44 violations of using a driver without a pre-employment controlled substance test
    • 13 violations of making fraudulent or intentionally false statements on the accuracy of records 
    • One violation of using a vehicle with inoperative/defective brakes 
    • 99 violations of failing to require drivers to prepare driver vehicle inspection reports
    • Two violations of using vehicles with oil and grease leaking from wheel hubs 

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    ​"These are violations that are serious enough that if they aren't corrected it could warrant the company's permit for operation being revoked," said Kate Griffith with the Utilities and Transportation Commission.

    KIRO 7 asked the Seattle Public Schools about the safety violations by First Student. "The safety of our students and staff is a top priority of Seattle Public Schools," said Tim Robinson with Seattle Public Schools. Robinson said the district is looking at information from the Utilties and Transportation Commission to further understand the implications for Seattle students.

    The Tacoma School District responded with the following statement:

    "Tacoma School District has strong safety expectations for student transportation. Compliance with transportation regulations, best practices and district safety policies is mandated in our contract with First Student."

    KIRO 7 reached out to First Student for a comment and is still waiting for a response.

    According to the state, First Student already paid $13,700 of the fine. The states suspended $10,000 of the penalty for two years subject to several conditions, including they must not have any repeat violations in two years. The state will conduct a follow-up safety investigation in two years.

     

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