Tackling the complexities of managing a transit workforce

Posted on May 22, 2019 by Simon Minelli - Also by this author

Not properly managing your transit workforce can have significant consequences in terms of money, safety, public perception, and the overall ability to serve the agency’s goals of providing transportation services to the public.

Spending time manually checking errors, running manual processes, addressing operator concerns and complaints, or grievances all cost the agency money. Tracking operator performance, absenteeism, ensuring operators are adhering to rest and work rules, and have valid license and qualifications to perform their work assignment can all impact the safety of the workforce as well as the public at large. Ensuring that the operators are on time and available to work when needed, enables service to go out and for the public to expect reliable service — all complex stuff.

This article dives into three areas that are more complex than they appear: Employee Management, Bidding, and Pay.

Employee Management

There are many personnel details you must continuously track and monitor — seniority, attendance, leave, status, incident tracking, and performance are just a few areas of importance. This information can’t be outdated. If it is, it can lead to errors causing grievances and rework for staff ultimately costing money.

Tracking a single absence is more complicated than it looks. Is it a full day? Associated with a quota or accrual? Or, even which employees an absence should apply to? These are only a few of the potential tracking points for an absence. Now, picture doing this for multiple people while still trying to maintain service. Further complicating things is that filling an absence isn’t as simple as getting the first available person. You need to find the appropriate operator to perform the assignment — checking to ensure that any assignments or modifications have qualified employees that do not violate any work rules.

    Modern software solutions can assist in enforcing these rules, ensuring that things such as absences can only be recorded in the proper format — like a full-day only.
  • Absence quotas and accruals can all be enforced so that employees do not end up taking time off they are not entitled to, and work rules and qualifications can be tracked and enforced to ensure an ineligible employee does not end up on a work assignment that could put public safety at risk.
  • This makes the system proactive instead of reactive, enabling that any issues are dealt with ahead of time.


The bidding process can be one of your most complex to implement and run. The process can involve boxes of paper, which are challenging and can be complicated, if not impossible, to update on the fly. All this paper must be posted in the correct places and kept up to date throughout the process. It then becomes incredibly easy to make a costly mistake. Additionally, in an era when transit is seen as a green alternative, going through boxes of paper each signup period can undermine the message.

The bidding process can be one of your most complex to implement and run.

Seniority must be enforced strictly. If not, you must rollback a bid and perform a portion of it over again, costing considerable time and money. Ensuring operators have up-to-date information about what is available to bid requires constant updates of postings, making it easy for a mistake to occur. On top of this, ensuring that this all occurs on time while maintaining service levels is a daunting task, often requiring further costs to provide operator coverage as they come in to bid.

  • With modern software solutions, work and extraboard quotas are tracked and enforced through the bidding process, ensuring runs or rosters are removed from the process automatically if chosen by another employee.
  • As bid entries are made, you can automatically check to ensure the operator has the proper driver’s license or other qualification to perform the work and checks to ensure the operator is not breaking any work rules such as rest rules, or total work or drive times.
  • An employee portal can even allow operators to enter their requests for bidding from home via a computer or smartphone.


Your employees need to get paid. You need to get paid. We all need to get paid for the work we’ve done. In many other industries, pay calculation for employees is generally straight-forward, paying employees for their straight shift time or at a flat or simple rate. (Though, you might have some employees that resemble this — managers or people on salary.)

In public transit, multiple types of pay rules, all compounded to determine a daily or weekly operator pay, makes calculating operator pay incredibly complex and a perfect opportunity for errors to occur.

In public transit, multiple types of pay rules, all compounded to determine a daily or weekly operator pay, makes calculating operator pay incredibly complex and a perfect opportunity for errors to occur. Work, absences, advances, banking, clawbacks, guarantees, holidays, intervening, overtime, premiums, purge, reduce, sellbacks, and spread pay are all examples of ways an operator may need to be paid. As if these elements are not complex enough on their own, the interaction of all these rules on a day or week can lead to several different results depending on how they are applied.

  • Leveraging software to understand all relevant pay rules and scenarios and configure the rules into the system, validating them by comparing them to real pay scenarios allows for an operator’s pay to be calculated quickly with reduced error.
  • All it takes is programming the rules into your software so it can do the heavy lifting.


Managing a transit workforce is complex. Even when comparing it to other similar industries, the complexities are unique. However, there are solutions out there that

can help. Investing in technology solutions can help significantly with managing these challenges and putting your mind at ease that you’ll catch errors and processes will run smoothly. By tracking all this data, you can analyze it for trends to foster behavior changes or influence policy changes.

Having policies and procedures in place are key to ensuring that details are kept up to date, are consistent, and easily accessible to the staff. Having a modern workforce management software can proactively limit errors, allowing your staff to make the proper procedures easy and the wrong procedures difficult.

Simon Minelli is Industry Solutions Manager at Trapeze.

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