CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The CEO of National Express, the company that owns Durham School Services, is responding to claims made last week that the buses are unsafe to drive.
"We don't have unsafe buses on the road," David Duke said. "It's not who we are. It's not what we do."
Duke, who came to the Lowcountry from Chicago to defend the company, says there's no excuse for the claims made at a meeting last week.
He says many of those claims came from unionized drivers, with Teamster labor union, trying to gain fuel for a labor union war.
"This is part of a global marketing campaign for the teamsters," Duke said.
But, with about 350 buses in the Charleston County School district, Duke isn't naive.
"Operate a fleet of buses, something is going to go wrong," Duke said.
That's why he came down, to address concerns. So far, he says, those claims are not proving to be true.
"It's well maintained," Duke said. "We're inspected twice a year."
He says for drivers who see something wrong, bringing it up at a meeting shouldn't be the first step.
"Each day, before a driver takes the bus out, they do a pre-trip of the bus and they're required to report on the safe condition of that bus and if the bus isn't safe, they don't have to take it out," Duke said.
He said, he'll take responsibility for the buses his company is over, but not all 350 in Charleston County.
"Only a third of that is operated by Durham School Services," Duke said. "The other two-thirds is maintained by the state. Our fleet averages about 7 years of age. The state's fleet is much, much older. I'm told, 14 to 19 years."
Duke says the responsibility starts with the drivers, to report problems with state buses to state mechanics.
All of this comes as the Charleston County School District is in the middle of contract negotiations with the company.
When the contract was up between Durham School Services and its drivers back in 2012, there was a strike and drivers threatened to walk off the job.
Hoping for a long future with Charleston County School District, Duke says he wants drivers to remember one thing: "Our commitment to safety is real. It's strong. It's 100 percent and it's what we do."
Charleston County School district solicited bids from three companies amid contract negotiations.
Durham School Services is one those and recently received a letter of intent to award. Contract meetings are expected next month.
Durham school services also runs the buses in Dorchester District 2 and Beaufort County School District.