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Lack of drivers and seat belts, this year's bus information in Bozeman

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Students are almost through their first full week in Bozeman.

This time last year the Bozeman School District and First Student were struggling to find drivers. Transportation coordinator Vance Ruff said due to a nationwide shortage in bus drivers, six routes had to be suspended last year and one had to be consolidated. However, this year is looking much better.

"We all have family emergencies or issues, life happens. We have contingencies to plan for that but I don't believe we will have to suspend any routes, but that could change in a week," said Ruff.

With the start of the new school year, Bozeman School District is entering its final year of the contract with First Student. Because of this, this fall they will be writing up a new contract with new criteria. One of the biggest topics that will be discussed is the potential of adding seat belts to school buses.

Ruff says you have to weigh the pros and cons. Right now they are monitoring other schools and the biggest con that they see is liability. For example, what if a student takes off their seat belt?

However,  Ruff says that the school bus is already the safest vehicle, and seat belt would make it even safer.

"Bar none, it's still the safest vehicle going. If you hire good drivers and you drive accordingly and you have good routing and we use common sense, we get to that point, is it absolutely necessary? No, but I do feel it's coming,” Ruff said.

Ruff says the district will get together sometime this fall to put together a new contract, that is when the decision will be made.

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