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Left turn signal, right turn signal, low beam, high beam, loading lights, brakes, wipers, and secure mirrors. If only school bus maintenance and inspections were all this easy. But when the safety of our children is involved, the regulations have to be more stringent than just someone knowing the location of a fire extinguisher.  

It’s hard to believe that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts first passed legislation that used public funds to transport school children in 1869, but it wasn’t until the adoption of the National Traffic and Motor Safety Act of 1966 and then eleven years later in 1977 that requirements were instituted for most of the school bus safety features and inspections we know today. 

Maybe it was catching up for lost time, but the regulation and inspection checklists for buses can be long and sometimes confusing. However, they’re always within the scope of keeping a school district’s young passengers safe and on a less bumpy road toward their higher education. And as compliance with regulations is mandatory and tends to change year to year, it’s a wonder how school transportation or fleet managers can keep track of it all and be ready for inspections.  

The problem of regulatory compliance and safety

Here are some facts about the average school bus: 

  • The average cost of a school bus is $90,000-$290,000.
  • The thousands of different components which construct the machine can take $34,000 to $38,000 a year to maintain appropriately. 
  • Bus operators must have a Class A or B CDL and pass background checks, drug screenings and have more training than any other ordinary driver on the road. 
  • Bus mechanics must also have a CDL and have training in school bus inspection requirements and any additional regulations for the state in which they work.

Based on these facts and statistics, it’s clear that keeping buses in full-operating condition and properly training your transportation team is imperative. There are three things a transportation director has to do in order to keep students safe and meet these objectives:

  • Make a preventive and routine maintenance schedule with an inspection process to maintain a district’s school bus fleet purchase and investment.
  • Create a school bus driver checklist of qualifications.
  • Shape another index to ensure mechanics are licensed, properly trained, and certified. 

The districts can use these checklists to show inspectors that the transportation team is following all rules and regulations. 

But now comes the tricky part: creating the list of inspection items. When an inspection is conducted, the inspector will choose a subset of school bus components to inspect. For example, a CDL school bus pre-trip road inspection will only pick one of three bus sections to inspect, but which section that will be is unknown to the transportation team. Because of this, it’s crucial that the transportation team and mechanics have checklists that span every single component of the school bus. 

As a best practice and to stay in compliance, a transportation manager should make self-inspection checklists based on a state’s school bus safety requirements a part of preventive and routine maintenance tasks. The lists can serve as a training tool and compliance measure for maintenance staff.

Instituting Maintenance Management Software for School Bus Maintenance and Inspection

As you can see, the checklists are mounting up. If your maintenance department is still using a paper-based system for work orders, things will get lost in the shuffle. And pre-inspection work assurances made by word of mouth will not provide a department with a solid record to share with regulators. Without proper documentation, violations and fines could skyrocket.  

Maintenance management software is a proven method for managing and maintaining preventive and routine maintenance tasks, such as inspection checklists and more. A few things a CMMS can provide: 

  • Inspection Scheduling – Never be unprepared or miss an inspection. A CMMS can automate inspection dates and times and release the work order to a mechanic. Daily, weekly, or annual inspections are scheduled with ease.
  • Compliance Reporting – Be able to pull vehicle inspection reports and service maintenance compliance requests for regulators on the spot. A CMMS keeps a record of vehicle maintenance and inspections performed so you never incur fines again. 
  • Training Checklists – Create and send quarterly training checklists to bus operators and mechanics to ensure they are current and have a proper accreditation for safe operation. 
  • Enhanced Safety – As inspection and training checklists are followed, student and employee safety increases in a measurable way.
  • Complete Fleet Maintenance – Manage and inspect all types of school fleet vehicles, including bus, pupil transportation, and maintenance machines.
  • Vehicle Scheduling for Events – Participating parties can request student transportation for events, field trips, sporting events, and more, which can, in turn, generate pre-bus inspection routines. 

Other maintenance management software benefits include increased productivity, breakdown reduction, lower fuel and maintenance costs, better time management, and inventory parts management.

Maintenance management software can generate an inspection checklist whenever a transportation department manager requires one. It can be filled out and performed on a computer pad or mobile phone and contain easily clickable boxes that have everything an inspection usually call for including axles, suspensions, seat belts, batteries, brake systems, emissions, bumpers, chassis, AC, driveshafts and differentials, wheels, wheel nuts, electrical systems, diesel particulate filters, throttle valves, emergency equipment, and even driver’s seat distance and adjustment regulations. If anything is off or needs repair, the list can auto-generate its own series of work orders to fix the problem before regulators arrive for an actual inspection.


Inspection preparation is essential to avoiding fines and reducing violations. Transportation department and fleet managers must have maintenance teams in sync, drivers trained, mechanics certified, and vehicles in safe operating condition. Everyone on staff must stay on top of regulatory compliance and safety issues. Accurate record-keeping and recall are both vital and provide proof of regulatory compliance. Maintenance management software can help every school transportation department prepare for an inspection in automated ways that cut time, determine preventive maintenance schedules, and keep historical records. Find out more from an FMX expert.