ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County Executive Calvin Ball today announced new incentives to recruit and retain bus drivers for the Regional Transportation Agency (RTA), which is facing a driver shortage. Photos if the event can be found here. Video can be found here. The efforts include:
- Increasing salaries for all fixed route RTA drivers, starting at $20 per hour, bringing entry level salary above $40,000 annually, and increase of over $5,000 a year.
- Recruitment bonuses of $3,000, paid in quarterly increments for first year of employment
- Retention bonuses of $1,500 to existing employees, paid in quarterly increments.
- Lowering age eligibility for RTA driver employment from 21 to 19 years, on a pilot basis over the next year.
- Provide in-house training and assistance with getting a CDL license.
- Provide $250 referral bonuses for existing RTA employees who refer someone successfully.
Throughout this pandemic, businesses and organizations have faced challenges with employee turnover and recruitment. We’re seeing this issue across industries, including transportation. To continue ensuring excellent service to our community – so that many of our residents can get to work, to the grocery store, and to their doctor's appointment, we must recruit and retain drivers. Our goal has always been to increase the reliability and accessibility of transportation here in Howard County for people of all abilities – and the efforts we’ve outlined today are a step forward to address this driver shortage.
The RTA has struggled to maintain the required level of bus operators – particularly those supporting fixed route service with a Commercial Driver’s License. This is despite efforts to recruit additional drivers including signing bonuses, job fairs, immediate offers, and paid training. Currently RTA needs to immediately recruit 31 out of a total need of 85 drivers. Due to the driver shortage, RTA has already planned to institute a service reduction on low ridership routes from February to April, or until enough drivers are hired. RTA is also partnering with the Howard County Office of Workforce Development to drive the recruitment push and expand outreach by attending virtual and in-person job fairs and hosting an RTA job fair in January.
“We are hopeful that the RTA, in close coordination with our partners in Laurel and the adjacent counties can work quickly to hire the necessary drivers and return our transit operation to pre-pandemic levels,” said Allen Cornell, Chairman and Howard County representative of the Central Maryland Transportation and Mobility Commission. “Thank you also to the dedicated staff of the RTA who have worked on the front line of the pandemic for the past 18 months and who deserve the recognition for the essential service that they provide to our residents.”
“The RTA is grateful for the partnership with Howard County where over 80 percent of the RTA service is operated,” said Jason Quan, RTA general manager. “In announcing this pay increase for our existing and new operators, we have a real chance to restore service next Spring and deliver the type or reliable service that our customers in deserve. We are also excited to have put in place a one-stop shop for anyone 19 years and above to receive CDL training and licensure assistance with a commitment to join and stay with our dedicated team of drivers.”
“I appreciate the help from General Manager Jason Quan and his staff for providing much needed wage increases for our local 570 members so they can provide a decent life for their families,” said Joe Fowler of Teamsters Local Union #570. “Thank you also to Howard County Executive Calvin Ball for addressing the financial needs of our hardworking members – present and future here at RTA.”
“I have been concerned about the impact of the pandemic and national labor shortage on the RTA and am pleased to see the County taking aggressive steps to stabilize transit service in the region,” said Astamay Curtis, Chair of the RTA Rider Advisory Council.