Howard Co. Approves Incentives for Hiring, Retaining Bus Drivers

Howard County is offering financial incentives for hiring and retaining bus drivers.

Howard County Executive Calvin Ball announced yesterday that the county will offer a series of incentives for current and new bus drivers for the county’s public fleet. Ball also said the county will update some hiring and credential processes to lessen the burden on potential drivers.

The move comes as the county, like many others, is experiencing a shortage of qualified bus drivers for its Regional Transportation Agency (RTA).

According to a county press release:

The RTA has struggled to maintain the required level of bus operators – particularly those supporting fixed route service with a Commercial Driver’s License. This is despite efforts to recruit additional drivers including signing bonuses, job fairs, immediate offers, and paid training. Currently RTA needs to immediately recruit 31 out of a total need of 85 drivers. 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. RTA is also partnering with the Howard County Office of Workforce Development to drive the recruitment push and expand outreach by attending virtual and in-person job fairs and hosting an RTA job fair in January.

“Throughout this pandemic, businesses and organizations have faced challenges with employee turnover and recruitment. We’re seeing this issue across industries, including transportation,” said County Executive Ball. “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. Our goal has always been to increase the reliability and accessibility of transportation here in Howard County for people of all abilities – and the efforts we’ve outlined today are a step forward to address this driver shortage.”

The updates include:

  • Increasing salaries for all fixed route RTA drivers, starting at $20 per hour, bringing entry level salary above $40,000 annually, and increase of over $5,000 a year.
  • Recruitment bonuses of $3,000, paid in quarterly increments for first year of employment
  • Retention bonuses of $1,500 to existing employees, paid in quarterly increments.
  • Lowering age eligibility for RTA driver employment from 21 to 19 years, on a pilot basis over the next year.
  • Provide in-house training and assistance with getting a CDL license.
  • Provide $250 referral bonuses for existing RTA employees who refer someone successfully.

Read the full Howard County press release.

Access video from the announcement.