MOUNT PLEASANT - Some Charleston County school bus drivers say children’s lives are being put in jeopardy every day as they travel in unsafe buses.

A group of about two dozen Charleston County school bus drivers met for more than 1 1/2 hours Thursday morning with their employer, Durham School Services, to discuss a number of safety concerns.

Bus drivers say one of the biggest issues is that the maintenance problems they report aren’t being fixed. They mentioned issues ranging from buses leaking anti-freeze and exhaust to buses breaking down. They were told Thursday to continue documenting those issues, and they would be addressed.

Bus drivers said they’re voicing their concerns because they’re worried about their cargo — children.

“All these buses need to be fixed,” said T. Russ, a woman who’s been driving Charleston buses for seven years. “Somebody is going to be hurt.”

Many bus drivers did not want to give their names or have their photo taken for fear of retribution.

Bus drivers invited The Post and Courier to a 9 a.m. meeting at Cario Middle School cafeteria about these issues, but Michael Hamel, general manager for the local Durham School Services office, said he could not talk with the drivers if the media were present. He asked the newspaper to leave and said the company’s corporate communications office would respond to any media questions later.

The school districts hired Durham in 2007 to employ its bus drivers as well as manage the district’s bus routes. Drivers said the problems mostly involve the state’s buses and not those supplied by Durham.

South Carolina operates the only state-run bus fleet in the country, and it’s also the oldest in the nation, with the majority of the buses more than 15 years old, according to the state Department of Education.

A 2007 investigative series by The Post and Courier revealed the state’s buses are also the most polluting and least safe in the nation.

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