Help Wanted: Tire shops shorthanded during busy season

There is a rush to get snow tires on before the first big snow, but on top of national supply chain shortages related to tires.
Published: Nov. 9, 2021 at 1:19 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 10, 2021 at 7:16 AM EST
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SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - There is a rush to get snow tires on before the first big snow, but on top of national supply chain shortages related to tires, a number of local shops are also looking for workers. As part of our ongoing series on high-demand jobs, Our Kayla Martin visited Vermont Tire & Service in South Burlington to see how they are coping.

The line of customers at Vermont Tire & Service in South Burlington starts early.

“I got here 10 after six,” said Mike Lunn.

“I work overnight and I just got out of a 12-hour shift, so I came right from there to here,” added Ana Maria Simpson Rapone.

They’ve been waiting outside in the early brisk morning air hoping to get their snow tires on, but the shop doesn’t open until 7:30 a.m. So why wait in the cold? “Anywhere with appointments is booked,” said Zoe Bronstein.

The tire business says while their competitors are booking out six to eight weeks in advance, they continue to run the first-come-first-served shop in order to keep a steady flow of customers and avoid any cancellations. The backlog of customers across the state and nation are due to high demand for service, and a low supply of staff.

“This has been a real challenging year,” said Dave Butterfield, Vermont Tire’s manager.

Pre-pandemic, he says they had 10 techs. Now, they’re down to six. There are typically up to four receptionists, but now only two employees are working the phones.

“You can’t max your crew out because you need your crew to show up in the morning,” Butterfield said.

Austin Hanley has been working at the shop for five years and says he likes it because it’s a hands-on job. “You want to do other stuff in the mechanical field -- it’s a good spot to learn,” he said.

But Butterfield says there isn’t a lot of interest in trade jobs. “We can run an ad in five different newspapers, ads on Facebook whatever, and maybe get one application or maybe two applications,” he said. Even after interviewing and hiring new employees, Butterfield says they often don’t stay. “I’ve had some come in they work till noon, you know. They don’t come back.”

And pay doesn’t appear to be the problem. “For a mechanical job -- it’s alright. It’s good starting pay and everything. Obviously, you get raises, busy season bonuses, and a lot of overtime,” Hanley said.

“Everybody says it’s the money this and that. You can pay them $25 to $30 an hour. They don’t want to work,” Butterfield said. He says the industry is also losing a lot of older workers due to the pandemic. Some are retiring sooner than they would and that means job security for the younger generation and the potential for higher wages. “In a five-year period, they are going to be able to control their paycheck.”

And if they bump up the pay for someone new, Butterfield says they have to raise everyone’s wages. “There’s only so much you can charge people to change over their tires, or mark the tires up,” he said.

New employees don’t need any prior experience to apply. “I didn’t even really know how to do an oil change,” Hanley said.

“We will train, we will train. Just got to be reliable, and willing to learn. We’ll train,” Butterfield said.

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