Ocean City transportation officials are pulling out all the stops to make more trams go on the Boardwalk this summer.
Interim Transportation Manager Steve Bartlett said this week that a generous overtime offer was made to both existing drivers and to other city employees if they pick up some extra hours behind the wheel, but the number of drivers and conductors is still falling woefully short.
“The numbers right now are extremely behind where we need to be in order to get a full complement of trams on the Boardwalk at all times,” Bartlett said.
Ideally, he said he would like to have 22 drivers and 22 conductors, but only has about half of each. Currently, five trams run per day — two in the morning and two in the afternoon — from noon to midnight.
“They kind of overlap,” Bartlett explained “For about five hours every day, there are five trams at the same time.”
Officials were hoping to entice more people to the positions with a unique overtime offer to employees in all other departments — from police, to recs and park, to Beach Patrol — if they serve as tram drivers or conductors once they finish their regular shifts.
“Everybody was really excited about that until they realized it was the overtime tram rate and not their primary job rate,” Bartlett said. “We had no takers out of that offer.”
Tram drivers make $12.65 an hour and conductors make $11.75. The overtime rates at time-and-a-half are almost $19 an hour for drivers and a little more than $17 for conductors, a far cry from what some employees would be making if the overtime was offered at their regular rates.
Bartlett said the existing drivers were also offered overtime for the first time this season. However he added that many of the drivers, who are typically older retired individuals, do not work 40 hours, thus they would not qualify.
“We did give the drivers an overtime rate they didn’t have before,” Bartlett said. “We are just beating the bushes trying to find everybody we can.”
Concern over safety on the Boardwalk following some violent occurrences at the start of last summer was also expressed last month as a potential deterrent to the tram jobs, although Bartlett said he no longer thinks that is the case.
“There’s always going to be some issues but this year has been very good,” he said. “The tram division, specific to the Boardwalk, has not had any issues anyone needs to be concerned about at this time. We’re doing really well with that. That concern has subsided.”
Last summer, the Boardwalk trams did not run at all because of the covid-19 pandemic. Most of the distancing restrictions have been lifted for this summer, but the shortage of drivers and conductors is hindering full operations.
To learn more about working as a tram operator or conductor, or to fill out an application, visit Ocean City’s website at www.ococean.com. Drivers are not required to have commercial licenses