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MT school bus company faces fallout from driver shortage, canceled routes

Posted at 9:20 AM, Oct 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-11 10:58:01-04

BOZEMAN – The company that provides school buses for the Bozeman School District is facing a substantial amount of fees following the cancellation of some routes recently.

First Student has been facing a bus driver shortage which has forced the school district to suspend four middle school routes, and other routes have been late due to the shortage. The decision means that First Student is facing non-operational fees as a penalty.

These fees come from First Student being unable to meet the needs of the Bozeman School District that were laid out in the new five-year contract signed in July.

“They approached the district last week with a request to waive those fees and a request to amend the contract to essentially remove those fees and replace them with a different fee schedule,” said Bozeman School District Director of Business Services Mike Waterman.

First Student spokesman Jay Brock said that the company has hired more drivers but added that it’s a lengthy training process between applicants getting their commercial driver’s license and the company training.

Waterman said the district isn’t planning to discontinue their contract with First Student.

“The best situation for everyone, for the district, for First Student, for the taxpayers, is to maintain the relationship. I don’t think that’s ever been a question. However, we do have some levels of service that we do need to make sure that we are getting and I think that’s where we’re at. Trying to maintain that level of service going forward,” he said.

The board did not make a final decision at this time because they believe this will be a long conversation and there are many details to think about.

Waterman mentioned there is a possibility that the suspended routes could be up and running again by Monday but the district will announce by the end of the week if it is happening.

-Emma Hamilton reporting for MTN News