SCS suspends all charter bus service until further notice

SCS suspends all charter bus services

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - It took a bus bursting into flames and a WMC Action News 5 investigator lighting his own fire, but Shelby County Schools decided its time to start over.

Shelby County Schools' chief of staff announced the district is suspending all 36 charter transportation vehicles used for extracurricular activities.

The announcement comes after a charter bus caught on I-55 Tuesday. Following that fire, WMC Action News 5 learned the company, Jefferson Travel & Tours, Inc., had questionable corporate status and an alarming safety record.

SCS asked all 36 charter bus vendors to submit new safety records before they can serve as charter bus companies for the district again. No charter bus company will serve the district until it submits its safety records.

"We're reviewing all of our transportation vendors, specifically requiring them to submit to us new safety records. If they do not decide to submit the safety records, of course, they will not be allowed to work with Shelby County Schools," said SCS Chief of Staff Reginald Porter Jr.

The bus that burst into flames on Tuesday night was carrying Central High School's basketball teams and cheerleaders. Everyone did make it out safely.

"We're not a bad company, we're a safe company," said Jefferson Travel & Tours, Inc. owner and operator, Arthur Jefferson.

His safety claims come despite three years with an "F" rating from Better Business Bureau when it comes to safety complaints, zero federal safety inspections, unpaid taxes that cost his company its corporate status, and now, a Shelby County business license that expired almost three years ago.

When asked how the company ended up on the SCS approved vendor list, Porter replied, "I really can't speak to ... to be honest with you."

A spokesman for SCS said the district inherited its list of approved charter bus vendors from the merger of Memphis and Shelby County schools. Nobody bothered to vet them.

Immediately following the charter bus fire, Andy Wise began looking into the list of charter bus vendors. He is already finding more companies that should not be carrying kids.

The fire that destroyed the bus on Tuesday night started in the engine compartment. And it's not the first time it's happened.

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