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Howard County Launches New Incentive Program To Combat Bus Driver Shortage

ELLICOTT CITY, Md. -- Howard County is launching new transit driver incentives to recruit and retain city bus drivers, introduced on Wednesday by Executive Calvin Ball.

The announcement was made at a Regional Transportation Agency event that focused on Howard County's efforts to combat the bus driver shortage.

Some of the incentives include:

  • Increased hourly pay.
  • Lowering age eligibility for drivers.
  • Recruitment and retention bonuses.
  • Suspending less traveled routes.
  • Providing in-house training and assistance to help drivers get CDL licenses.

"Throughout this pandemic, businesses and organizations have faced challenges with employee turnover and recruitment. We're seeing this issue across industries, including transportation," said Ball. "To continue ensuring excellent service to our community – so that many of our residents can get to work, to the grocery store, and to their doctor's appointment, we must recruit and retain drivers. Our goal has always been to increase the reliability and accessibility of transportation here in Howard County for people of all abilities – and the efforts we've outlined today are a step forward to address this driver shortage."

These incentives are just one of the many attempts made by Howard County in the last year to combat the driver shortage.

Earlier this year, the county launched a new program to allow middle and high school students to use a free RTA bus pass. They have also implemented singing bonuses, held job fairs, and offered paid training.

The RTA currently needs to recruit 31 drivers to meet pre-pandemic capacity.

"We are hopeful that the RTA, in close coordination with our partners in Laurel and the adjacent counties can work quickly to hire the necessary drivers and return our transit operation to pre-pandemic levels," said, Central Maryland Transportation and Mobility Commission Chairman Allen Cornell. "Thank you also to the dedicated staff of the RTA who have worked on the front line of the pandemic for the past 18 months and who deserve the recognition for the essential service that they provide to our residents."
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