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An Ocean City bus driver is seen driving his bus south on Coastal Highway. Early assessments show more applications have been received for bus and tram drivers for the 2023 season than there were at this time last year.

Early recruiting paying off

The number of people interested in driving Ocean City buses and trams this season is more promising now than in mid-February last year, signifying an early positive outlook for recruitment.

At a Transportation Committee meeting last week, Transit Manager Rob Shearman reported that the department has received 2023 season applications for 40 bus drivers and 16 tram drivers, which exceeds the numbers reported at the same time last year.

He said the number of bus driver applicants, most of whom are returning, is a “strong showing.” Tram driver recruiting is also ahead of last year, with half of last year’s crew returning and a healthy pool of applicants in the mix.

In the face of a serious decline in driver applications for both divisions since the pandemic hit, city officials instituted hiring incentives and higher seasonal wages that Shearman said have helped bump up the applicant totals going into the 2023 season.

“The numbers here are all looking pretty good and I think that’s a combination of the incentives, … the wages coming into this season, and some really good … job fair advertising,” he said.

According to the city’s job posting, pay for seasonal bus drivers starts at $20.50 and all applicants are required to have a commercial driver’s license. In response to a question from Councilman Tony DeLuca, who sits on the Transportation Committee, Shearman said he hopes to hire at least 60 drivers for the summer.

For the Boardwalk trams, which start running for Springfest on May 4, hourly pay for drivers starts at $15.91. Applicants are not required to have CDLs. The department started last season with nearly all of the 25 desired drivers, but after a few weeks many of them had quit and staff had to go back to the drawing board to hire more.

Shearman cautioned Transportation Committee members that attrition is common, especially in the tram division, and told them to keep that in mind when assessing the number of drivers.

“I know that was a big problem last season so we’re going to be closely monitoring that,” Shearman said.

Numbers reported last week show that the department has applications for six bus driver supervisors, all of whom are returning; five dispatchers; and one bus tech for the season.

A total of 12 tram conductor applicants, most of whom are returning, are also counted so far for this year.

This story appears in the Feb. 24, 2023 print edition of the OC Today.

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