Tighten Your Lug Nuts: Wheel Falls Off N.C. School Bus

We have all unfortunately heard of a school bus driver or monitor losing his or her head while on route, but a school bus losing a rear wheel? That’s exactly what happened this past week, reports The Charlotte Observer.

The wheel fell off a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools bus on Tuesday in traffic, damaging another car and stranding high school students who were on their way to school. The district said a transportation mechanic failed to properly tighten the lug nuts after a brake replacement on Aug. 17, and pre-trip and post-trip inspections by bus drivers didn’t uncover the problem.

“After the brake replacement work was complete, the lug nuts were not tightened to standard using a torque wrench,” Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools told the newspaper in a written statement. “The torque wrench is a specific tool used to tighten bolts, nuts and fasteners which have a specific value to ensure optimum performance. The failure to adequately torque the lug nuts resulted in the rear wheels separating from the vehicle during transport.”

While the mechanic at fault is not a new employee, the school district pointed out that its bus garage staff is short-staffed, as 14 of 99 positions in bus maintenance and repair have been unfilled. Janet Thomas, the district’s transportation director, said it’s hard to compete with higher pay offered by local trucking companies.

Kevin Harrison, the director of student transportation for the North Carolina Department of Education, told The Observer that he reviewed the maintenance history of the affected school bus in addition to a sampling of district buses inspected last year. He said that the report showed an increase in defects and a below average safety rating but that he could not find any record of previous wheel or tire issues that indicated a systemic problem.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg transports 126,000 students each day with a fleet of 1,078 school buses.