Northside Independent School District in San Antonio, Texas, has agreed to settle the lawsuit it filed more than a year ago against Caterpiller Inc. and local distributor Holt Cat, after a school bus fire forced the district to ground another 24 buses with the same diesel engine.
Under the agreement, Northside ISD will receive $1.5 million, with Caterpillar paying $900,00 and National Bus Sales paying the remainder to purchase the buses, according to a local news outlet. Last month a San Antonio judge approved the deal.
Blue Bird Co. manufactured the school bus body and Caterpillar, the engine, while Holt Cat performed maintenance, court records state.
The fire started in the engine compartment of a Blue Bird school bus on Aug. 23, 2010 outside of a local high school. No kids were on board at the time, but the bus reportedly had dropped off younger students right before catching fire.
After filing the lawsuit in July 2012, Northside told STN that it had tried to work with Caterpillar and Holt Cat to resolve the problem, but the manufacturer offered no solutions.
The district stated that 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."
Gonzalez said National Bus Sales reclaimed the other buses in August. He added that the district would use the money from the settlement to replace the buses and keep up with its rapid growth.
Northside transports more than 60,000 students every school day, according to the district’s website. Its fleet of roughly 850 buses runs on diesel (40 percent), bi-fuel (40 percent) and propane autogas (20 percent).