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'We're still very much actively hiring': TARC still experiencing driver shortage despite hiring efforts

TARC has seen many changes to its workforce since the onset of the pandemic, impacting staff and riders. It says it's still feeling those effects.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Transit Authority of River City (TARC) reports its hiring numbers are trending in the right direction, but added numbers fluctuate day-by-day.

"It's always fluid. It's always fluid ... just a wave of retirements or people leave," Carrie Butler, executive director of TARC, said.

It's that higher turnover rate keeping TARC aggressive in its hiring efforts. 

Looking back at the start of the new year, an already short-staffed TARC was operating without 11% of its workforce, who were out with coronavirus-related absences as omicron infections spiked. 

It lead TARC to push out an advisory to riders in January 2022, asking them to only use its services for "essential trips." Now six months later, TARC says its since recovered.

"Things are getting better," Butler said. "We're still very much actively hiring, but we're seeing things trend in the right direction." 

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Butler said TARC is still in need of 30 drivers to operate its fixed bus routes. She said its total number of available operators has remained stagnant throughout 2022 so far, at around 325 personnel and that TARC plans to offer three additional routes within its system come August.

Lillian Brents has worked as a TARC driver for more than 13 years and is currently the president of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1447, the union representing over 500 TARC employees.

"My members, we're showing up every single day," she said. "They depend on us, and that's why we're committed to showing up every single day." 

Brents says the biggest issue in her mind is TARC's turnover rate and that it's indicative of the stressful aspects that come with the job.

RELATED: TARC to change two major routes to reduce travel time

"You have to deal with the mental health issues, civil unrest, changing traffic conditions," she said. "The job can be overwhelming. That's part of the reason why this particular job is not for everybody." 

Butler said she thinks there is lots of work that is difficult.

"But I think the meaning of what we do, and the value we put in the community is really important," Butler said.

While Lillian agrees, currently in the midst of union contract negotiations, she said she'd like to see a greater emphasis put on training staff to deal with some of the stressful situations mentioned.

"In order for us to continue to move in a positive direction, in terms of moving this city, one bus at a time, we're going to have to work together," Brents said.

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