More Cracks Found in RTD Bus Frames

Times Staff Writer

More cracks have been found in the frames of 62 new Southern California Rapid Transit District buses--only months after buses from the same manufacturer underwent repairs for similar “hairline” fractures, district officials reported Thursday.

Twelve of the 62 buses--among the 415 Neoplan USA Corp. buses that were delivered last spring and summer--have been taken off the road, RTD General Manager John A. Dyer said.

In a report to the RTD board Thursday, Dyer said the Neoplan buses were suffering “major structural deficiencies” that could take months to repair. He told reporters, however, that “there is not a safety problem, period.


“The cracks that we have are, for the most part, hairline cracks. Where the cracks change from hairline to anything else, we are pulling those buses out of service,” Dyer said.

The latest cracks were discovered on a beam of the A-frame that helps support the rear of the bus, according to Michael Leahy, RTD’s equipment engineering manager. He said the cracks were found “only two feet” from the point where cracks were discovered on 128 Neoplan buses last September.

Officials pulled those 128 buses out of service.

The entire fleet subsequently underwent repairs, but RTD officials said Thursday that the new “structural stress cracks” may be related to the earlier problems.

The new cracks were first detected on Dec. 14 on a bus in the Sun Valley division during a routine inspection. As additional cracks were found on other buses, all 415 buses were examined; 62 showed cracks--all on buses that operate in the San Fernando Valley.

The RTD will continue to monitor all Neoplan buses.

“There is no pattern to it,” Dyer said. Other RTD officials, however, said the fractures have appeared largely on buses that have traveled between 30,000 and 40,000 miles.

Dyer persuaded the RTD directors to drop a plan to sell surplus buses from the district’s fleet of 2,600 buses until the repairs are made.


The Neoplan buses cost $74.4 million, the second largest bus purchase in the district’s history. The federal government paid 80% of the cost. The buses are under warranty, but RTD directors voted to consider legal action if Neoplan balks at making repairs.

Joyce Surprise, a spokeswoman for Neoplan in Lamar, Colo., said the company has replaced several of the faulty A-frames. “We are in the process of responding. We are working on it, and it is being taken care of at this time,” she said.

Surprise said the A-frames are manufactured in Germany and shipped to Colorado.

Similar cracks have been reported on Neoplan buses in other cities, including Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Washington. Four years ago, the RTD, along with transit agencies around the country, also pulled 230 Grumman-Flxible Corp. buses out of service when cracks appeared on the same A-frame supports that have plagued the Neoplan buses.