Wanted: Drivers for Westmoreland County's shared-ride program
The private company that operates paratransit services for the Westmoreland County Transit Authority has given drivers a 19 percent pay raise in an effort to lure applicants to fill up to 20 vacancies that have the program struggling to operate at full capacity.
National Express Transit, based in Ohio, last week implemented the pay hike, raising the starting salary for paratransit drivers by $2.25 per hour. Jerome Phillips, the general manager for National Express in Greensburg, said the starting salary for drivers will be $13.91 per hour after they complete 120 hours of training.
“Hopefully we will attract more drivers,” Phillips said.
National Express and the transit authority for months have looked to offset a driver shortage for the program, which provides shared rides throughout the county. The program offers reduced and subsidized door-to-door rides to seniors, handicapped and low-income residents.
Phillips said the Go Westmoreland paratransit program needs 73 drivers to operate its fleet of more than 50 vehicles. It currently has 53 drivers on staff. In January, the authority provided more than 17,400 paratransit trips.
National Express will look to interview and potentially hire new drivers as part of a job fair scheduled for 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday today at Westmoreland County Community College in Youngwood.
“We will hire them right there if they meet certain criteria,” Phillips said.
The company is seeking applicants who have a driver's license and no prior criminal record.
Meghan Yuhouse, director of operations for the transit authority, said the driver shortage has resulted in more crowded vehicles and a drop in the program's on-time performance rating.
“It's created a little more difficulty in finding ride times and scheduling trips. We haven't refused any requests for rides,” Yuhouse said.
The on-time rate for paratransit rides has dipped to 87 percent. A year ago, the program was averaging 95 percent on-time trips.
National Express has operated the paratransit program for the authority for several years. Its three-year, $14.2 million contract expires at the end of June.
Transit authority board members last year gave the company a $3.6 million one-year extension of a contract to operate its fixed route bus service. That contract also expires this year.
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-830-6293 or firstname.lastname@example.org.