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story.lead_photo.caption RACHEL DICKERSON/MCDONALD COUNTY PRESS Mechanics Tony Tosh (left), Cody McCool, McDonald County Transportation Department Director Tiffany Lilly and mechanic Bailey Scott are pictured at the bus barn. The transportation department recently received the Fleet Excellence award from the Missouri Highway Patrol. Not pictured, mechanic Jason Smith.

The McDonald County Schools transportation department has received the Fleet Excellence Award from the Missouri Highway Patrol.

Following an inspection from the highway patrol, the transportation department received a 90.6 percent on its fleet, according to transportation director Tiffany Lilly.

Of 64 buses that were presented for inspection, 9.4 percent did not pass. Lilly said that was because, on all but one of the buses, a light had stopped working.

"They had just been checked. Sadly, because of the rough roads, they get jiggled loose. It was just tightening a bulb," she said.

The remaining bus that did not pass had a slight exhaust leak on top of the muffler, she said. All the problems were fixed, and the department had 100 percent when inspectors left, she added.

"They finished all our inspections in one day. It usually takes two days," she said.

Regarding what inspectors are looking for, she said they make sure lights are working, check for trip hazards inside the bus, check the seats to be sure no sharp edges are protruding, check the tires, check fluids for leaks, check the front end to make sure it is in good working order, check the steering components to make sure they are tight, etc.

"It feels really good," Lilly said of receiving the award. "Our mechanics have worked really, really hard for the past couple years to make sure we do well. Our district has been trying to get rid of some of the older buses. Our mechanics really knocked it out of the park. They are frustrated we didn't get a higher mark, over lights. I set a goal and supported them, but they are the ones who did it. They did a great job."

As for what the award means for the district, she said, "It really just means for us that we have done everything we can to make sure our buses are as safe as possible to get our kids to school and home safely."

Two of the department's mechanics are state-certified, and two others are working on becoming state-certified. The state-certified mechanics do a separate state inspection on the buses every year.

The department has a total of 68 buses that are driven an average of 5,000 miles per day with 51 routes and 53 drivers. The department goes through 8,200 gallons of fuel per month and eight to 10 tires. Each bus has its oil changed every 3,000 miles.

The oldest buses in the fleet are two 2000 models, but both of those are being replaced this year. The department was approved for a Volkswagen grant and will be getting a total of seven new 2022 model buses this year.

"Our school board has been working very hard with the budget to make sure we can update the fleet because it was needed," Lilly said.

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