Northside Independent School District in San Antonio, Texas, filed a lawsuit last month against Caterpillar and a local distributor after a school bus fire nearly two years ago forced the district to ground two dozen similar buses equipped with the same diesel engine.
The fire started in the engine compartment of a Blue Bird school bus on Aug. 23, 2010 outside of a local high school. No students were on board at the time, but a district spokesman said the fire delayed school dismissal that day.
Northside told School Transportation News that it has tried to work with Caterpillar and its local dealer Holt Cat to solve the problem, but the manufacturer provided no solutions. The district noted it had to spend an additional $3 million to purchase 24 new buses to replace those taken out of service.
"We had several other issues with those engines that caused us to ground the fleet," said district spokesman Pasqual Gonzalez. "They replaced the bus that caught fire with a different model and a different engine. We tried for two years to come to terms with Caterpillar, and that was not successful."
After failing to reach an agreement, the school board voted last month to move ahead with the lawsuit. A spokesperson at Caterpillar told STN the company does not comment on ongoing litigation.
Caterpillar ceased manufacturing on-highway diesel engines after 2009, just prior to the deadline for diesel engines to meet stricter EPA emissions regulations. Last year, Caterpillar and Navistar moved forward with the next phase of a partnership to manufacture, sell and service vocational and on-highway trucks.
Northside ISD is the fourth largest school district in Texas and transports 60,000 students each day on 850 school buses.