Codiac Transpo, after rough summer, creates cushion against driver shortages
Long hours, split shifts and no guaranteed hours made recruitment hard for Moncton's public transit service
Until a few months ago, the job description for bus drivers in Moncton was daunting.
"You could be in a seat for 13 hours over a 16-hour time frame in one day," said Alex Grncarovski, the director of operations for Codiac Transpo. "You could have up to three split shifts, you have eight hours' rest between shifts, you're on call for six days out of seven.
We were always behind the eight ball and that continues to this day. But there's a comfort level now with the amount of people we have here.- Alex Grncarovski , Codiac Transpo
"And by the way, we could end up changing your off day because we need you to work. … And by the way, no guaranteed hours."
It didn't make it easy for the public transit service to hire and keep drivers, as the city discovered during the summer.
But things are changing.
Grncarovski, who used to work for the Toronto Transit Commission, says Codiac Transpo is now able to guarantee new employees at least 30 hours of work a week.
And applicants no longer need to have a special licence to drive a bus.
Transit systems in cities such as Toronto, Montreal and Halifax, don't insist on the higher-class licence from applicants, he said.
"Usually the candidates that they look for are people who have customer-service background, people who work with disabled individuals, restaurants, servers — anything in regards to public service," Grncarovski said.
"And once they're successful, they actually help them get their [bus] licence and then they train them to be operators."
There was such a shortage of drivers this year that Codiac Transpo was forced to hire a private company to cover two transit routes in Moncton during the summer.
City council voted in May to give Codiac Transpo $175,000 to pay for a temporary arrangement with the charter bus company Coach Atlantic.
An eye opener for city
That's something Grncarovski doesn't want to see happen again.
"I think the cancellation of service last summer was an eye opener for not just us but, I think, everybody in Moncton," he said.
He said some drivers were off work because of serious illness.
"And as we're hiring people, somebody would go off sick," Grncarovski said. "So we were always behind the eight ball and that continues to this day. But there's a comfort level now with the amount of people we have here."
There are 55 full-time operators and 15 casuals, with approval for up to 21 more.
Laurie-Ann Horsman, who has been with Codiac Transpo for more than 11 years, said she had to tough it out to get hired on full-time.
"When I started there was no guarantee of hours and fortunately, I guess, I was lucky enough that I had at least 20 hours a week, sometimes up to 60, " Horsman said.
"I've seen people come in after me and have no hours for two or three weeks, or only eight hours a week. So it's quite the process."
Grncarovski said two recent job fairs have brought in some new candidates.
He's looking to create a larger pool of casuals to prevent another shortage.
"We didn't want it to happen and we ended up contracting some service out because we wanted our customers to be not as affected — and they weren't, obviously," he said.
"It affected people but no, we don't ever want to be at that same spot again and our goal is not to be there."