Durham is the second-largest private operator of yellow school buses in the United States. The company is owned by a U.K-based multinational corporation, National Express Group (NEX), which brought in $293 million in profits last year. Durham has stayed under the public’s radar by operating in school districts under different names, including Petermann, Septran Inc., Trinity Transportation and The Provider.
Durham and NEX’s record on safety compared to their biggest competitors:
- Over the past two years, National Express’ (NEX) school bus operations, which includes Durham School Services, experienced a 25% higher rate of crashes per one million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) compared to competitors First Student and Student Transportation, Inc (STI)
- The number of federal safety violations per one million VMT* incurred by NEX school bus operations was 41 percent greater than its peers
- Per one million VMT, NEX school bus operations racked up three times as many violations considered by federal authorities to be the most severe, such as bald tires or driving without a commercial drivers’ license (CDL).
* Trailing 24 months of data divided into most recent annual vehicle miles traveled data (or the sum of vehicle miles traveled in the case of multiple DOT numbers).
More about Durham’s safety problem:
- Many buses are old and inadequately maintained. Operations are plagued with faulty equipment and a delay in maintenance. Driver training is insufficient and driver turnover is high. Because buses often break down, routes are often overcrowded, at times forcing students to stand or sit in the aisle.
- Leading up to the fatal November 2016 bus accident, numerous complaints from Chattanooga parents and school officials went unaddressed by Durham. The tragedy wasn’t the first or last case of a child’s safety being put at risk due to Durham’s negligence. Bus breakdowns and mechanical failures continue nationwide.
- When drivers report issues with buses to Durham, they are often pressured to either drive buses in need of repairs or face discipline. Despite the fear of retaliation, Durham drivers nationwide are stepping up as members of the Stand Up For School Bus Safety coalition as whistleblowers to alert parents about their concerns.