Due to an increase in retirements recently, the Port Authority of Allegheny County (PAT) is hiring drivers this month while recruiting even more to fill operator vacancies in the future. A new contract set in place this past summer along with funding cuts has made it more difficult for the transit agency to attract new drivers.
Heather Pharo, spokeswoman for PAT said 16 drivers have been hired this month and will begin training soon. “They were actually recruited about three years ago, so once they start work, we like to have a pool of qualified operators to come in and start training as vacancies become available so that way we’re ready to go when service needs to be filled,” Pharo said.
The new drivers will be paid $10 per hour during the 10-week training period, which will increase $17.06 per hour after their training is completed, equating to an annual salary of $34,120 for those who work 40 hours per week.
Pharo said past applicants have generally waited six months to one year until they were hired, but 2013 should be different. “People that we recruit this year may not necessarily have to wait that long. Certainly over the past couple years, there were some—we had some financial difficulties that certainly would affect hiring,” Pharo said.
The recent contract drove several operators to take early retirement before Port Authority officials finished negotiations last summer. The contract included concessions such as an 18-month wage freeze and eliminated lifetime healthcare coverage. Nearly 100 laid-off drivers were brought back to fill operator vacancies.
Pharo said additional drivers hired this year will create options for new operators as retirements continue. “Essentially what we’re looking to do is test applicants to see if they qualify, and then create a pool of about 40 to 50 bus operators,” Pharo said.
She added the Authority generally experiences an average of 25 retirements each year.
Port Authority operates nearly 100 bus, rail, and incline routes. Operators must be at least 21 years of age, have a valid driver’s license, and either a high school diploma or GED.