Bus driver shortage hitting Collier Area Transit

For the last decade, Ivan Esteves has started his day boarding a Collier Area Transit bus, buckling up and driving away.

But these days are long days and turning into long weeks.

“Almost 56 hours,” Esteves said,

A shortage of bus drivers is taking a toll on drivers like Esteves. Right now, there are 50 drivers covering routes meant for 74 bus drivers. Drivers are leaving for higher-paying jobs.

Esteves said he is tired.

“It’s very hard,” Esteves said. “It’s very hard especially because we know a lot of people is working a lot of hours, you know.”

Esteves said bus drivers are under a lot of stress because of the traffic they face on daily basis.

“They’re at the brink of exhaustion,” said Kevin Smith, International Rep. for the Transport Workers Union of America, which represents the bus drivers. ‘Our drivers typically are behind the seat more than they should be.”

Smith said the effort to recruit new numbers is not good enough.

The union wants Collier County to increase the transit budget so MV Transportation, the contractor in charge of “CAT,” can offer a lot more.

“The county is really, really working hard to fix the issue,” Smith said. “And at this point, I think we’re moving forward in the right direction.”

Esteves hopes so.

“Our goal like I told you before is transport our passengers in the safest way we can,” Esteves said.

Below is a full statement from MV Transportation:

In response to your inquiry, I can tell you that MV Transportation remains committed to providing a safe working environment for our employees and riders, including continuing to maintain the same rigorous COVID-related safety protocols since the early days of the pandemic.  We are equally committed to providing competitive compensation to attract and retain talent to serve the Collier County community, encompassing wages, company-paid benefits, training and time off.  Earlier this year we increased starting wages more than 20% and tripled our sign-on bonus from $500 to $1,500 in addition to raising the training wage for new recruits.  We are currently in discussions with Collier County Area Transit for additional wage adjustments.

 

 

Reporter:Rachel Cox-Rosen
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