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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.
“Depending on where you’re located, it’s not worth the money.
The job is a hazard to your health.
The stress of dealing with the public, being assaulted verbally and physically ,threatened combined with no work-home balance lowers your quality of life”
“The perception that transit driving is an easy job.
There are millions of drivers out there that don’t have a clue what skills are needed for transit, whether it be local or long distance.”
“ I think people’s perception going in is that it is an easy laid-back job.
They don’t realize the level of skill and focus it requires. The terrible hours particularly without seniority, dealing with the public, aggressive drivers, long periods of sitting, lack of breaks, and stress that all of these things can cause.
It’s not what they signed up for and so, you lose about half of the new hires before they even graduate from training and another portion shortly after they get out on their own. Most people can’t do what we do.”
“Operators don’t last because the companies are short and even when they hire more drivers everyone is still overworked.
I assume for most new people they think overtime isn’t an issue but then they get burned out.”
“This job will take its toll if you let it
This job is not that easy, and not for everyone. Dealing with traffic, different personalities and at times almost impossible schedules can cause health problems if you don’t take care of yourself”
“Management is a huge issue as to why we do not have enough drivers as we are held accountable for everything.
Shortage of drivers is because this new generation wants 9 to 5 jobs, and no weekend work.”
“Because it takes a very strong individual to handle the public.
In my opinion, I don’t think it’s the pay so much that keeps the turnaround high.
But rather the amount of crazy we have to deal with on a daily. Some people just do not have the patience, and those of us that do drive and have been driving, have a hell of a lot of patience. I have people ask me all the time if your job hiring? And I tell them yes. I tell them the pay starting, and top and they are like “OMG that’s awesome!”
But the one and only thing I ask them before I tell them how or where to apply Do you have patience because if you do not this is definitely not the job for you”
“The turnover rate at my agency is astounding and so many recruits don’t even finish training. My experience was that they sugar-coated the schedules we work.
Some people are involuntarily working part-time for extended periods of time then they finally get full time and they ride the extra board, in some cases, for years. Extra board for us means call in today after 3 pm for your schedule tomorrow. You can never guarantee your family that you will be available to do anything until 3:00 the day before. No school functions, no medical appointments can be made. No promise of a weekend. Plus we have a lot of split shifts with as much as a 6-hour split. It is rough.
Because we are a suburban agency, we draw operators from as far as 40 miles away from their home terminal. The agency has provided literally nothing to allow operators a safe, quiet, comfortable place to rest on long splits. We have a small common room with hard plastic chairs, a blaring tv, a broken pool table, a coffee pot (no coffee), a microwave, one vending machine with chips and candy, and a soda machine that is empty a lot in the summertime. They “renovated” our division recently.
They made major upgrades to facilities but did not touch the driver’s room. It is woefully undersized and dirty. We, as human beings, are afterthoughts. Management thinks a decent paycheck is more than we can expect or deserve. If it isn’t in our contract they don’t want us to have it. Treating people like human beings is a cheap investment in having a happy, healthy, engaged, and enthusiastic workforce. Money is good but the quality of life here is really terrible. I honestly love my job once I am on the road away from the garage and management. This could be a great job if they could just understand that we are human beings”