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12 and bad news early and honestly to all affected constituents local unemployment rates were low, as was the starting wage was seen as essential for any person in the paratransit man- of bus operators, $7.00 per hour, as compared to other indus- ager role (26). tries (29). In 60 Ways to Improve Driver Recruitment and Retention, Burkert discusses the importance of good management char- School Bus acteristics and notes that vehicle operator surveys indicate that poor relationships, especially with management, account Fairfax and Prince William Counties, in Virginia, also have for a significant part of turnover. According to Burkert, every experience in dealing with severe bus operator shortages. In supervisor should be trained in human relations skills. Addi- 2006, those counties were short about 180 school bus opera- tionally, Burkert notes that the responsibility for managing tors, causing students to miss the start of their morning classes. and cultivating a company relationship with operators often Though the districts were offering up to $15 per hour for falls to the line supervisor, dispatcher, or operations manager starting operator positions, many potential applicants were and that no amount of programming, new ideas, pay raises, turned off by the perceived pressures of the job, such as the or incentive plans can overcome a bad dispatcher. Manage- stress of daily driving and dealing with children. In response, ment support and positive feedback is consistently cited as the district offered operators $1,000 bonuses for recruiting integral to productive workforce relations (22). other operators, and new operators who stayed at least 90 days received a $500 bonus. Additionally, Fairfax County began offering benefits to operators who worked only 20 hours per Shortage of Vehicle Operators in Other week (30). Sectors: Fixed-Route Transit, School Bus, Literature on issues related to the recruitment and reten- and Trucking tion of school bus operators shows some similarities to the Fixed-Route Transit issues faced by those providing complementary paratransit services. One study that involved interviews with a random Research reported in the 2002 TCRP Report 77: Managing sample of 50 transportation officials from public schools in Transit's Workforce in the New Millennium found that opera- Indiana revealed a widespread shortage of qualified bus oper- tor positions are the most difficult positions in which to ators in that state. Between 51% and 77% of all Indiana pub- maintain employees. While the reasons for this difficulty lic school transportation corporations experienced shortages vary, many agencies indicated that not being able to offer of bus operators in the year prior to the study. Greater than competitive wages caused difficulties in recruiting and retain- 75% responded that the shortages were caused by the part- ing employees (27). As previously noted, many transit agen- time nature of operator jobs. A variety of other reasons were cies must compete for employees with commercial enterprises cited as the causes for shortages of bus operators--qualified that offer higher wages. operators are also qualified for other work that pays more per A recent article in Mass Transit magazine highlights the hour, and operators do not want the responsibility of driving impact of the vehicle operator shortage on one city, which is or dealing with children (30). symbolic of a nationwide problem. Amarillo, Texas' city bus Similarly, a 2001 study of South Carolina school bus oper- system runs fixed routes as well as other transportation ser- ator turnover revealed that the turnover rates in local school vices, including transporting school children to and from districts was 27%. Several factors contributed to high turn- school and to extracurricular activities. Due to the shortage over: low pay rates, unavailability of fringe benefits, lack of of vehicle operators, school district supervisors and techni- full-time employment, and equipment and student behavior cians have had to drive routes; transit employees have had to problems (31). The study concluded that school bus opera- work numerous overtime shifts (causing exhaustion and ill tors in that state were underpaid, especially for safety-related health); and routes have been cancelled. Amarillo is using a positions, leading to high turnover and a limited applicant multi-pronged approach to recruit and retain its operator pool. The Council suggested a bus operator pay increase of workforce--recruit in locations that will allow more people 13% to 45% (31). to know about the job, hire retirees, and provide city benefits to all operators, including the additional benefit of being a Trucking Industry member of the Texas Teacher Retirement System (28). In Fargo, North Dakota, city officials who were worried Several publications highlight operator shortage and reten- about a bus operator shortage that was causing missed routes tion as the most serious problem in the trucking industry, requested that the company under contract to provide fixed- with no long-term strategy in place for solving the problem. route and paratransit service to residents of Fargo increase An October 2005 article by Swain cited turnover rates of starting wages for all operators. At the time of the request, 100% or more, resulting in a continuous scramble to recruit