Despite having fantastic pay and benefits, the transportation industry is struggling to maintain its workers. Transit agencies are finding it challenging to hire and retain drivers from their already low applicant pool. After ten years of working as a transit operator, I have experienced firsthand the difficulties that both companies and workers face and the benefits that this job brings. This form of employment has been advantageous for me and led to many great opportunities throughout my life. However, I completely understand why the industry has fewer applicants every year, as this job is not right for everyone.
To fully grasp the situation and hear from drivers themselves, I interviewed transit operators from all over the country and asked them why they believed transit agencies are short-staffed. In my free Ebook, Not In Service, drivers from various major cities share their opinions and experiences working within the transportation industry. They express their thoughts, concerns, and doubts about the lack of new hires. Even though they work in different agencies across the country, many of them suffered from similar experiences.
The book discusses the most prevalent reason why the new generation is loath to work for transit agencies, most commonly because of the quality of life and false expectations.
There are many misperceptions about what it means to be a transit operator. You might think it should be a comfortable and laid-back job, but it is far from that. As multiple operators explained in the e-book, people “don’t realize the level of skill and focus it requires.” You drive large and heavy vehicles, typically with other passengers on board, and have to maneuver around narrow cities filled with reckless and angry drivers. The long hours and periods of sitting down without a break are exhausting aspects of the job.
Another operator described that many people think working as a driver is not worth it because it “is a hazard to your health… [and] lowers your quality of life.” They lack understanding of what this job entails and requires of you and are quickly dumbfounded when they realize they were disillusioned. Agencies prioritize those with seniority, so new hires are often left with the less desired shifts and routes–this quickly leads to dissatisfaction. Seasoned operators claim that nearly half of the new hires quit before they complete training because the job is not what they were expecting. Transit agencies fail to retain workers because they do not clearly advertise how much hard work this job requires and don’t make it worth it for newbies. The low rate of new hires puts the strain on current employees to fulfill overtime, quickly leading to burnout.
Operating as a commercial driver is a difficult job, but so is nearly any other. No job is easy. Once you figure that out and create a system that works for you, everything will start to get better. It also took me some time to adjust my work schedule to best suit my lifestyle, but once I did–it was perfect. This job allowed me to work in split shifts to be with my young children during the middle of the day. I was able to save money and travel often. This job afforded me luxuries that I might not have had elsewhere and led me down the career path to becoming my own boss. I have built an entire company off of my love for commercial driving. Your perception of a job is what makes it achievable or impassable. I developed Supir to serve drivers better and support their ever-changing lives. It offers flexibility and control, which standard transit agencies can’t provide.