Management & Operations

Iraq conflict creates driver shortage

Posted on June 1, 2004

The North County Transit District (NCTD) in Oceanside, Calif., is facing a shortage of bus operators due to the deployment of U.S. Marines to Iraq. With the continuing difficulties of the occupation of Iraq, many Marines are having to stay in the military or are not being allowed to retire. Before the war, NCTD had no problems recruiting former Marines to become drivers because of its proximity to Camp Pendleton military base in Oceanside, according to NCTD spokesman Tom Kelleher. “If [former Marines] can find work after leaving the Marine Corps, they are happy to stay in the San Diego area,” he said. To fill the gaping hole the Marines would have occupied, the agency has stepped up its recruiting efforts. Exhibiting at job fairs and establishing a finder’s fee for referrals are two ways it’s filling the vacancies. It has also increased the operators’ starting hourly wage and shortened the period required for new employees to qualify for benefits. In addition to the lack of new drivers, NCTD faces the problem of retaining those it does have. Since May, more than 20 drivers have left the agency, putting pressure on the remaining staff. As of May, NCTD employed 289 full-time bus operators, well short of the 324 positions allowed for in the budget. Operators start at $12.60 an hour. The highest pay grade is $19.41 per hour.

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