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Metro Transit looking to hire 500 new bus drivers

Updated: July 10, 2019 06:46 PM

Metro Transit says it's in need of more people willing to hop on board with a career as a bus driver.

One of the reasons they're facing such a shortage is a lot of their drivers are reaching retirement age. With service routes also expanding, Metro Transit Authority said at least 500 more drivers need to be hired within two years. But, it's partially the hiring procedure that's slowing them down.

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Almost half of the new applicants are changing careers and don't have a commercial driving license, so new employees need more time to train and pass tests before they can get to work.

"The challenge is, this is a government job and there are steps and it is a credentialed position, so they have to become proficient and safe driving our buses, carrying our passengers," said Aaron Koski,  Metro Transit Senior Workforce Development manager. "And [with] the tight labor market, we do not have the same volume of applicants available in the labor market to fill these positions."

It takes at least five weeks to train for the road, though new hires continue training their entire first year.

"It is a career and not a job," said Koski. "It's a family-supporting career with great starting wages with $20 an hour, starting in August, benefit packages and a pension."

Deja Russell is on the road in her career change; she's learning how to drive the over 40-foot bus.

"Something different, this is really outside the box," said Russell. "I've been doing customer service since I started working, and this is still customer service, but is somehing out of the ordinary."

Safety is also in the spotlight. Past incidents on buses — including theft and assault — could potentially deter new drivers.

Jean Hammonds has been working for Metro Transit for 30 years, starting out as a bus driver herself.

"Oh, I just love my job," said Hammonds. "I used to do the 18 a lot and I got to know that route so well."

Hammonds is now training new hires like Russell, helping prepare them with the best safety practices.

"It's getting so bad out there now. Because operators got hit on and spit and stuff, but I don't really worry about that."

Because safety is a priority, new bus drivers are taught to be non-confrontational with passengers, so they can just focus on getting people to where they need to be. But it's not a big concern for Russell, who feels confident this was the right career move for her and her family.

"Once I put my mind to it, I go," said Russell.

Because of the shortage, Metro Transit officials added a new $1,000 signing bonus. They hope that will attract more candidates to fill the positions they need in the future.

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Crystal Bui

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