One Year Later: ORT Bus Fire

Ozark Regional Transit Rolls along One Year after Bus Fire

SPRINGDALE, Ark. (KNWA) - In total, ORT lost 20 buses on the morning of December 10, 2017. One year later, the company is still picking up the pieces.

Only five buses were spared and able to make their routes. Jeff Hatley with ORT says thanks to the help they received, they were able to have all routes back up and running within nine business days. Hatley tells us we now know the cause of the fire. 40 mile-per-hour winds blowing in the wrong direction caused equipment problems in the buses.

Hatley says, "It had like a self cleaning oven that burned out those particularities. Well, as you can imagine that caused heat. Well, with the wind blowing straight up the tailpipe, it wasn't able to exhaust that heat, so the temperature built up and built up and in one of two places, sparked the fire."

Hatley says they received insurance money from the fire in June of 2017. Since then, they've been able to join in on an order for buses with Oklahoma and Texas, resulting in eight new permanent buses for ORT. In the meantime, Hatley calls their current buses "the skittles fleet" because they're just about every color of the rainbow and borrowed from as far as Key West, Florida.

Hatley says getting buses on the road is just half of the problem, extra expenses the fleet requires is the other part. He says, "Just having to carry insurance on those vehicles - even when they weren't put into service just yet. We had to because some of those vehicles - in fact all of them that weren't given to us outright - they could have been recalled."

Besides having to pay insurance for more vehicles, ORT tells us they're also losing revenue by not having their own buses. ORT can only advertise on its fleet, not on the borrowed buses rolling around.

Hatley says the eight new permanent buses could arrive anytime within the next few days.

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