No talk of strike, but Durham bus drivers fired up about bus safety

No talk of strike, but Durham bus drivers fired up about bus safety

NORTH CHARLESTON (WCSC) - Moments of anger and frustration Tuesday night as bus drivers described their day-to-day working conditions.

"I go home and cry because there are days I don't know if I'm going to make it," says Claudia Herring, a Durham bus driver.

Roughly six weeks after successful contract negotiations with their employer, Durham School Services, bus drivers and monitors from Charleston, Dorchester District 2, and Beaufort say the company and state-owned buses are unsafe and maintenance minimal to non-existent.

"We have buses on Azalea lot that have mold on the ceilings, mold on the seats, windshield wipers that don't work," explains another driver. "You're calling over the dispatch, you know what they say, drive the bus, write it up when you return."

Union member Sebrina Isom says there needs to be more dialogue between Durham and the state about the condition of the buses.

"Durham maintains Durham buses and it's Durham's responsibility to let the state know that there buses are not in compliance."

Some drivers say there is little respect for the tremendous job at hand.

"I feel that working with children, we gotta be very careful working with kids, and I feel that we deserve and need a lot more respect. We're not getting that from Durham."

And the union's president says safety concerns were addressed during contract negotiations.

"The big issue we had during negotiations were the unsafe buses," says LD Fletcher, the Teamsters president.  "Not one person has addressed the unsafe buses since negotiations."

Durham released the following statement Tuesday night.

"Durham school services just concluded extensive collective bargaining negotiations with the Teamsters for bus drivers in Charleston, Dorchester, and Beaufort Counties during which the Teamsters made no specific safety proposals over months of discussions. We are trying to better understand the focus of the union meeting and the concerns being raised. Durham takes the safety of its passengers and employees very seriously. We have a clear process in place for drivers to report any concerns with bus safety, services or working conditions. Our drivers check the conditions of each and every bus, regardless of company or state ownership, through a thorough pretrip inspection prior to leaving the lot for service. In order to ensure that no bus takes to the road with an issue that could lead to a breakdown or inconvenience student passengers, our drivers may escalate any maintenance issue to "critical" and recommend the bus be removed from service."