You may have heard in the news recently that we are currently experiencing a shortage of MetroBus operators. Metro Transit is not alone in addressing this challenge. Other transit agencies across the country are also having difficultly recruiting new bus drivers because of the low national unemployment rate.
We operate a very large transit system. On a typical weekday, we operate about 4,880 MetroBus trips total in the City of St. Louis, St. Louis County and St. Clair County in Illinois. That’s a lot of service. So, from time to time, despite our best efforts, we find ourselves unable to deliver service on a handful of trips because of operator shortages, and that unfortunately creates delays for some of our riders.
We appreciate our MetroBus operators who have been stepping up to work on their days off or volunteering to pick up extra shifts so we can provide the reliable service our customers depend on. We are dedicated to moving the region, and it is all hands on deck when we have shortages. After available bus operators are assigned, our managers who are qualified and have their Commercial Driver’s License, get in the driver’s seat so we can transport our riders to work and other important destinations.
With the jobless rate being extremely low right now, it is difficult for all types of businesses across the country to attract and retain workers and that includes the transit industry. Transit is a very labor intensive industry. We rely on people to drive our buses, trains and vans and for mechanics to support all those vehicles. The majority of our 2,500 employees at Bi-State Development, drive a vehicle or work on a vehicle. The challenge for us, especially during a strong economy, is competing with the wages offered by the private market. This is true across Metro Transit and true for transit systems across the country. Whenever I talk with transit system operators in other cities, workforce availability is one of our top three issues. How do we attract new people? How do we train them to support our service?
We’re working each and every day to attract a professional workforce that can provide the level of service you depend on. We conduct various job fairs throughout the year and we’ve also modified our hiring process. Previously when you signed on as a bus driver at Metro Transit, you were part-time. We have changed that to hire full-time operators. While there are some Department of Transportation required standards for hiring, we also have standards that are agency policy. I have met with my senior leadership team to elevate those agency standards pertaining to background, personal and physical health. Ultimately, we want to try and create hiring standards that allow our employees to productively and safely do their jobs, but may also allow us to reach a wider sector of the labor market.
Now is the perfect time to join our award-winning team. As a new employee, we offer you paid training, so that you can obtain your Commercial Driver’s License and learn about operating Metro service. We offer a competitive benefit package and that’s really important because while unemployment is low, not all jobs out there are offering the kinds of benefits we’re offering such as health insurance and pension.
Ultimately, we’re looking for bus drivers who enjoy being around our customers and want to serve them. They need to be “people people” because at Metro Transit, we’re people serving people. So, if you’re passionate about serving the public and want to give it a try, I encourage you to reach out to us online or by giving us call.
Jessica Mefford-Miller is the Executive Director of Metro Transit