Howard County Executive Calvin Ball unveiled new incentives Tuesday designed to attract more bus drivers to the Regional Transportation Agency of Central Maryland and alleviate an ongoing labor shortage.
The measures, announced by Ball on Wednesday, include boosting increased salaries for all fixed-route drivers, a $5,000 annual increase and $3,000 recruitment bonuses. Entry level salaries will now be above $40,000.
The county also included retention bonuses of $1,500 paid quarterly, lowered age limits for driver eligibility from 21 to 19, and several referral bonuses. The goal, Ball said, was to increase the reliability of transportation in the county.
“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,” he said.
The Regional Transportation Agency also admitted its continued difficulty in retaining bus drivers, especially for fixed routes that require commercial drivers licenses.
“Currently, RTA needs to immediately recruit 31 out of a total need of 85 drivers,” the department said. “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.”
The agency announced partnerships with the Howard County Office of Workforce Development, expanding outreach through virtual and in-person job fairs. Allen Cornell, the Chairman and Howard County representative for the Central Maryland Transportation and Mobility Commission, was thankful for the dedication that the staff has provided during the pandemic.
“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,” Cornell said.
The department encouraged those who wish to learn more about employment opportunities to visit Regional Transportation Agency’s webpage for more information.