Another Gwinnett bus catches on fire

A bus fire that tied up traffic Thursday morning on I-85 North near Indian Trail wasn't the first for Gwinnett County Transit.

Two Gwinnett County fire engines were dispatched at 7:51 a.m. Thursday to a bus pulled over in the emergency lane on I-85 at Indian Trail Road. Upon arrival they reported finding heavy smoke coming from the engine compartment of the bus. A fire was located and quickly extinguished and damage was contained to the engine compartment, fire officials said. There were no passengers on the bus.

Another Gwinnett bus caught fire on March 27 on Nancy Hanks Drive near Best Friend Road in Norcross. That fire was blamed on a faulty turbo charger and resulted in a driver and one passenger abandoning the 42-seat bus.

The cause of the two fires appears to be the same — a turbo charger in the exhaust systeam — and is of great concern to Gwinnett Transit officials.

"It was the same kind of failure," said Phil Boyd, director of Gwinnett Transit. "Turbo chargers, which are on all diesel engines, seem to be the weak link in the whole design."

Boyd said Gwinnett currently changes out the turbo chargers on the $350,000 buses every 175,000 miles, which he said is below manufacturer's recommendations. The turbo charger in the March fire had 67,000 miles on it; Thursday's had only 37,000.

"We're talking to our contractor about reducing the change-out period," Boyd said.

Boyd commended the bus driver Thursday for getting the bus to the side of the road and engaging the fire suppression ring as trained.

"Safety is the number one thing we stress with maintenance and with our drivers," Boyd said. "They're trained on what to do. We thing we're doing all the things that need to be done."