UMass Transit Services cuts bus route runs due to shortage in trained drivers

The reduction in runs will affect bus routes 33, 34 and 35


(Collegian File Photo)

By Will Mallas, Assistant News Editor

The University of Massachusetts Transit Services are reducing bus runs for select bus routes during the 2018 fall semester due to a shortage in student drivers.

According to UMass News and Media Relations, the reduction in runs has impacted bus routes 33, 34 and 35. The 34, also known as the northbound campus shuttle, and the 35, the southbound campus shuttle, will each run at 22-minute intervals rather than the previous 15-minute intervals. The 33, which travels between Puffer’s Pond and the Stop and Shop in Hadley will run at 80-minute intervals rather than the previous 40-minute stints.

According to Glenn Barrington, the general manager of Transportation Services, the reduction in bus runs is due to a shortage in bus drivers. Transportation Services had to cut runs from certain routes to ensure there would be enough drivers for the various routes in UMass and the surrounding area, he said.

“We were able to cover everything for the first two weeks, but the stress from that, amongst the driving work force we had, was becoming somewhat unpalatable,” Barrington said. “We had to make reductions so we could be sure we could sustain a dedicated bus service for the community we serve.”

Barrington also noted that Transportation Services chose to cut bus runs rather than trying to manage a more packed schedule with less drivers to prevent last-minute cancellations.

“We would prefer to be able to advertise exactly what buses are out there rather than, if we didn’t have enough drivers on a particular day, having to cancel routes unannounced to the general public,” he said.

According to the press release, “the changes are expected to remain in effect through the fall semester.” However, the press release noted, “other PVTA routes will maintain their existing schedule.”

In an attempt to hire more drivers, Transportation Services held a hiring event on Sept. 15. Barrington described the event as “successful,” with the event attracting 38 students and of those 38, 31 were hired and ready to move on to the training process.

The training of new hires consists of a six-week process that begins with three to four weeks of learning how to drive the buses in order to receive a Commercial Driver’s License. After obtaining a CDL, trainees then take part in a “familiarization process,” where they observe a driver on duty to learn the behaviors of the driver and the various bus routes. The training process concludes with the trainee taking over shifts while being observed by the driver on duty, allowing the trainee to learn all ten routes before being released as a bus driver to the public.

According to the Transportation Services section of the UMass website, all applicants are required to be, “currently enrolled as a UMass Amherst student with a minimum of six class credits per semester,” and, “must be willing to work a minimum of 15 hours a week, including at least one opening, closing or weekend shift.”

Transportation Services also plans to hold a second hiring event later in the semester for a winter training session. Transportation Services holds a training session over winter break that allows students who stay in the area to take part in the training process and be ready to work as drivers in the spring semester.

Barrington also emphasized that the Transportation Services accepts applicants at any time.

“We are always hiring, so even though there may not be a hiring event for a couple of weeks, anyone at any time can go to our website and apply to be a bus driver right online,” Barrington said.

Will Mallas can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @willmallas.