LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - One million - that's what Jefferson County Public Schools says it's costing tax payers to keep repairing hundreds of school buses to make sure your kids stay safe on the road. Now, the school district is headed to court. JCPS filed a lawsuit Friday in Jefferson Circuit Court and district officials says, it was the last straw despite a 40-plus year relationship with the bus maker.
When JCPS bought nearly 400 of its school buses between 2005 to 2011 for $32 million, they expected them to be top-of-the-line from a national manufacturer they've dealt with for more than four decades. But in a lawsuit filed August 2, against Navistar International, JCPS claims its big yellow purchases that take your kids to school every day are nothing more than a bunch of lemons.
"We are actually growing oil," said JCPS Spokesperson Ben Jackey, "What's happening is, the diesel fuel is actually getting into where the oil is." That, says Jackey, is breaking down the oil causing the engine problems. "What's it's forced us to do is an exhaustive amount of maintenance on these engines that, if they were operating properly we wouldn't have to do," he said.
There are also broken doors and rust issues that are easy to see as we took a look at some of the buses in question. The problems are happening in just a couple of years of wear.
JCPS says it's lead to more buses being in the shop, more people doing the repairs more often and it's costing you more than $1 million.
All that aside, the question remains: Are the buses safe to be on the road? "Absolutely, " Jackey said. He said the district wants to assure parents, "The buses are safe," he cautioned, "They're safe because we're doing exhaustive maintenance on these buses to make sure they're safe."
The school system says it tried to give Navistar International many chances to remedy the situation. Jackey contends, for a time, the bus maker provided some updates to the engines, but now, JCPS claims the company really isn't working with them anymore and making good on the warranties.
Navistar International stated, as a matter of policy, the company does not comment on pending litigation.
JCPS is seeking a trial by jury and unspecified damages from Navistar and it's regional dealers to cover the costs of current and future repairs.
JCPS assures parents the buses are safe and ready to go for the first day of school on August 20.