Mears to replace rear brakes on 14 vehicles

Fourteen Disney Cruise Line buses were removed from service this week because of concerns about two separate fires in the past 11 months.

The buses are operated by Orlando-based Mears Transportation Group, which shuttles Disney customers between Orlando and the coast. Both fires were attributed to problems with the buses' braking systems, which are being replaced in the remaining vehicles.

In the most dramatic incident, a fire on Aug. 26 destroyed a bus on State Road 528, now known as the BeachLine Expressway. The fiery scene backed up traffic for miles. In the second fire, another Disney Cruise Line bus sustained minor damage on State Road 417 on July 7.

There also was a third incident, on June 29, involving a Disney Magical Express bus that was taking passengers from Orlando International Airport to Disney hotels and resorts. It caught fire and sustained minor damage. But that fire involved the engine rather than the brakes.

In all three cases, there were no injuries.

Mears spokesman Roger Chapin said the first fire prompted the company to begin replacing the "rear axle braking chambers" on all 44 of its 1998 VanHool buses used for the Disney cruise route. That task was largely complete -- with 30 buses upgraded -- when the second fire occurred.

After analysis of the second Disney Cruise Line bus fire indicated it had begun in the same place as the first, the company decided to sideline the rest of the buses until the questionable parts are replaced.