OCEAN CITY – With the summer season rapidly approaching, despite the continued dreary weather, the town is still struggling to fill out its transportation department workforce.
During Tuesday’s Ocean City Transportation Committee meeting, members got their typical briefing on bus driver and Boardwalk tram driver recruitment and retention efforts.
It’s no secret Ocean City, like most jurisdictions and the private sector, continues to struggle to fill out its staffing ranks for a variety of reasons. Finding qualified transportation department employees, including bus drivers and Boardwalk tram drivers and conductors has been particularly challenging because of the special skill sets needed, including, in most cases, commercial driver’s licenses (CDL), drug screenings and other training and qualifications.
Earlier this year, town officials implemented some incentives to attract new drivers and retain existing ones, such as signing bonuses, wage increases and loyalty bonuses, for example, and they have worked to some degree, but the full complement of drivers needed is still coming up short heading into the middle of May. Operations Manager George Peake provided an update to the committee on Tuesday.
“With the buses, we currently have 59 drivers plugged into the summer schedule,” he said. “I’m encouraged overall. We also have a full complement of supervisors and they can be called on to drive a shift here and there if need be.”
Peake explained there were still a handful of applicants going through the screening process, and some help will come when school bus drivers move over to drive resort buses for the summer, but the desired number is still coming up short.
“My goal was 80,” he said. “That’s very optimistic. If I could get to 72 or 74, I would be happy. The complement of school bus drivers coming is not counted in the 59. There could be as many as eight of them.”
While the number of drivers is currently coming up short, Peake said it’s not because of a lack of effort in terms of recruiting.
“We’re still continuing to work with human resources,” he said. “It’s not okay, but we’re trying everything we can.”
Peake said the shortage was even more pronounced on the Boardwalk tram driver and conductor side.
“The picture with the trams is not as rosy as it was,” he said. “There was a huge turnover with just 17 out of 25 drivers and 17 out of 25 conductors. Some people try it and say it’s not for them. We lost 10 drivers and several conductors. It’s not a cakewalk. It is a difficult job.”