School bus compliance issue impacts hundreds of buses in Hampton Roads

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - 4,000 school buses around the commonwealth could have a safety issue, the Virginia Department of Education says.

Last week, the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) notified 132 school divisions that their buses may need a 'brake interlock' installed to keep the parking brake from disengaging.

The device is required on all buses that use automatic transmissions that were purchased after March 2011. Buses with automatic transmissions do not have a 'Park' setting. When the bus is stopped, drivers put the vehicle in 'Neutral' and pull the parking brake.

Without the interlock, the parking brake could accidentally disengage — for example, if a student were to slip and inadvertently fall against the brake valve.

Without the interlock, the parking brake could disengage, the VDOE says.

News 3 reached out to seven school divisions in Hampton Roads to find out how many buses need the interlock installed. Here are the numbers:

Norfolk: 92 buses could be affected out of 323. NPS says it is currently inspecting buses to see which ones are impacted.

Virginia Beach: 88 out of 733

Chesapeake: 152 buses

Portsmouth: 38 buses

Suffolk: 62

Newport News: 122 out of 335

Hampton: 41

The school divisions tell News 3 they are already in contact with bus vendors to ensure that the proper parts are provided so the problem can be fixed.

“The safety of students is the department’s highest priority and the department will work with school divisions, manufacturers and school bus dealers to make sure that all non-compliant buses are brought into full compliance with the state Board of Education’s equipment specifications as quickly as possible,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Steven R. Staples said.

VDOE's Office of Support Services is not aware of any incidents in which anyone has been injured because the parking brake of a bus accidentally disengaged.