NJ TRANSIT celebrated the 500th bus operator to graduate from its training program during Gov. Phil Murphy’s Administration, which began in January 2018. The graduates are part of an intensive, ongoing effort to ensure the necessary staffing is in place to serve the transportation needs of New Jersey.
“NJ TRANSIT is only as good as its people, and we are working hard to bring more talented people to restore our workforce to the levels required for reliable service,” said NJ TRANSIT President/CEO Kevin Corbett. “With these 500 new bus operators we are moving closer to the levels where we can restore NJ TRANSIT back to its status of national prominence.”
Including the 500 graduates, NJ TRANSIT now has 3,313 full-time and 147 part-time bus operators on the road providing more than 150 million customer trips each year. This is an increase in available operators of more than 12% since the Murphy Administration took office. There are currently 34 student operators in training, with additional classes to follow.
In 2018, NJ TRANSIT launched a major recruitment effort to fill the rosters of bus operators and locomotive engineers. Throughout 2018, NJ TRANSIT held open houses to test bus operator candidates on the spot and make tentative offers. As an incentive, a $6,000 sign-on bonus was offered to any applicant already possessing a Commercial Driving License (CDL) A or B certification with a passenger endorsement and air brakes. Through this process more than 10,000 applicants expressed interest, from which these 500 graduates were selected.
Each of the 500 new operators completed an intensive classroom and on-the-road training program and have been assigned to a specific garage. Students participate in up to 25 days of classes depending on their experience level and the types of vehicles they will be operating. Standard training is for 21 days. Students with experience operating similar vehicles may take an accelerated 12-day program. Those who will be assigned to operate articulated buses have several additional days of training.
NJ TRANSIT continues to receive 182 new 45 foot cruiser-style buses annually in the ongoing modernization of the fleet. The agency’s Board of Directors also approved a contract for 85 60-foot articulated buses in January. The new buses in combination with the hiring of these 500 bus operators results in 1,900 more passenger trips each weekday or 500,000 per year.
The agency’s intensive hiring program also resulted in 102 new locomotive engineer trainees out of more than 4,000 applicants, with the first 12 completing their training in May and June of 2019. NJ TRANSIT has increased the number of engineer training classes to a record-setting six classes running concurrently. There are four engineer classes set to graduate in 2019.