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Help Wanted: GMT seeks drivers, mechanics

Published: Oct. 19, 2021 at 6:32 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - We’ve reported on transportation struggles, from school bus drivers to public transportation. As part of a new series, we’re looking at some of the high-demand jobs and how employers are changing their recruiting strategies. Our Kayla Martin rode along with Green Mountain Transit to see what the job is like and why it’s so hard to fill.

Nusret Mezetovic has been a bus driver at Green Mountain Transit for 16 years. “I got into it with a big passion and I enjoy it.,” he said.

But that doesn’t mean it’s without challenges. “If you end up running late, people get a little frustrated because they’re gonna be late,” Mezetovic said.

Frank Betins takes the bus daily and relies on it. He uses an electric wheelchair but says it can only go so far before running out of juice. “This is critical. I couldn’t go hardly anywhere without these guys,” Betins said.

UVM Students like Cayden Stewart also depend on the bus. “I use the bus to get to class every day. It’s a lot easier than trying to get parking at that place,” Stewart said.

But GMT is having a tough time finding help. “Right now we have a 25% vacant rate in our operations and maintenance departments,” said GMT’s Jon Moore. He says that’s roughly 24 open positions in those departments alone.

And there aren’t enough drivers, either. Moore says if they can’t find more help, they might have to temporarily cancel some low-volume routes. He says many of the drivers they have are already working more than they would like.

“Most days, after 2:30 when I finish my regular shift, I take some extra work as well,” Mezetovic said.

GMT is looking for drivers, but Moore says he struggles with finding qualified drivers or prospective drivers willing to take the courses necessary to get licensed. That’s always been a problem, but it got worse during the pandemic. “For the CDL piece there are pretty strict requirements and that takes time. There are also strict drug & alcohol requirements,” he said.

As far as finding mechanics, Moore believes there just aren’t as many people entering trade jobs. They’ve started a bonus program that gives GMT mechanics and bus drivers a $500 sign-on bonus. With opportunities to get bonuses throughout your career. And they’re looking to get a bonus program started for maintenance staff too.

GMT drivers also have a new contract that might make hiring easier. Starting CDL drivers earn $21.75 an hour and after one year in Burlington they get up to $26 an hour. Moore says drivers will also get annual pay increases.

Another change is to drivers’ paid time off. Moore says it’s now easier for employees to use. He hopes that knowing that they can take a day off will entice people to sign up for weekends or split shifts.

“As far as I concerned it’s very, very decent good contract that we got,” Mezetovic said. “One of my friends used to say split shift is bad because you hate to go to work twice in one day.”

But whether it’s a full day or a split shift, Mezetovic says helping people get where they need to be is a great way to make a living.

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