Sullivan, Kingsport school buses on recall list

Rick Wagner • Oct 24, 2019 at 9:09 AM

KINGSPORT — Up to 11 of Kingsport City Schools’ 43 buses may be in a nationwide recall for a seat padding issue, Supervisor of Transportation Tommy Starnes said on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Sullivan County Supervisor of Student Services, Middle Schools and Transportation Billy Miller said that system has found six of its 25 special education buses that might be in the recall, but none of the private contractors’ buses are. Hawkins County bus transportation supervisor Rolando “Roy” Benavides and Director of Schools Matt Hixson could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.


Daimler Trucks North America, issued the recall for Thomas school buses because the seats lack adequate impact absorption, which could increase the risk of injury in a crash, according to the International Business Times and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The recall, which began circulating on Monday, affects 53,528 buses: Thomas Built Saf-T-Liner EFX, Minotour, Saf-T-Liner C2, and Saf-T-Liner HDX school bus models equipped with SynTec S3B or S3C seats. The issue with the seats is related to the use of styrene blocks that may not provide sufficient impact absorption in certain areas around the steel frame of the back support, the federal government says. The padding is a violation of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard.

“We have about 12 buses that are part of that recall,” Kingsport Superintendent of Schools Jeff Moorhouse told the Board of Education at its work session on Tuesday.

The issue is that the padding on the back of bus seats doesn’t meet federal requirements. 

“It’s not as much an issue for us because we have seat belts,” Moorhouse said.

Starnes said Wednesday that the number of Kingsport buses affected by the recall is now thought to be 11, but the actual number is still uncertain and may be zero. Starnes said the style of seats on the buses with seat belts is different than those without seat belts and that the bus dealership in Murfreesboro doesn’t know if any of the Kingsport bus seats are actually recalled.

Kingsport Assistant Superintendent of Administration Andy True said that federal transportation authorities have no reports of injuries or deaths resulting from the padding in question and that the recall is a “cautionary step.”

Sullivan’s Miller said that about 130 buses serve Sullivan County Schools, including 20 county-owned, full-time special ed buses that are not backups. He said it is his understanding that the recall doesn’t become effective until Dec. 2, but he said the recall language is confusing.

“We’ve identified six that we have that are part of the recall,” Miller said. “They’re still eligible to be used.” 


Moorhouse said the fix, which won’t cost the school system anything, is that Thomas will send technicians to the school system to add padding, a process he said will be done without having to put any buses out of service. Miller said he understands the fix could be on site or at a centralized location serving many school systems.

The city system has 43 buses, including backups, but only 39 are full-time buses on regular routes.

Starnes said Kingsport City Schools is the only district in Tennessee that has seat belts on all its buses. Miller said the county’s special ed buses have seat belts but the county’s regular buses do not.

To remedy the issue, the International Business Times reported Daimler said it will install additional impact material between the re-bond back and vinyl back cover free of charge to increase the amount of absorption in the seats. Daimler said the recall is expected to begin on Dec. 2.

Questions about the recall can be directed to Daimler customer service at 1-800-547-0712. The recall number is FL-832.

The federal website has a link to track buses in the recall using VIN numbers.