Four decades behind the wheel
Hartley Hageness, owner of Hartley’s School Bus and Charter Services, likes to think the business is a fixture in the community.
Four decades of service will do that.
The long-time business is in its 40th year. “It doesn’t seem like it’s been that long,’ Hageness said.
The business began in 1971 with just a handful of school bus routes, but rapidly grew over the years, providing transportation to a number of districts in both N.D. and Montana.
However, as student enrollment numbers have dropped and school districts have closed or consolidated, the number of contracts the business had decreased.
Today, Hartley’s provides bus transportation for Rugby, Langdon and North Border (Walhalla) school districts in North Dakota as well as some around the Helena, Mont. area.
In 1973, it became also became a Blue Bird bus dealer in North Dakota and Montana, selling new and used buses.
To date, it’s one of just three bus dealers in the state. In addition, the company is equipped to do extensive bus repairs and body work.
The distance between school districts the service provided transportation for, and the customer base for selling buses meant Hageness had a lot of travel time.
And in addition to taking to the road, Hartley took to the air, piloting his aircraft to destinations across the state and in Montana. “I think one year I had over 400 hours in the plane,’ he recalls. “Today, I don’t fly nearly as often.”
That’s due to a reduction in bus contacts and sales as well as technology. The advent of e-mail and the Internet has enabled many meetings and transactions to be conducted via computer.
“I do miss that personal contact with school officials and customers,’ he admits.
The business has been a family affair as Hartley, along with his wife, Jordy, son Todd and daughter Tracy have been part of the Rugby office and service staff. There are currently 16 working in Rugby and seven in its office in Montana. In addition, he hires about 70 bus drivers, most a part-time employees.
Some handle charter bus services as well as make delivery of new buses to customers.
Hartley’s buses have indeed been a fixture in the area, providing thousands of students rides to and from school as well as to extracurricular events.
And it will continue to be in the years to come.
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