RTA bus drivers in demand, some paid $100K+ last year

Greater Dayton RTA is eliminating routes and adjusting services to deal with a bus driver shortage. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF
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Greater Dayton RTA is eliminating routes and adjusting services to deal with a bus driver shortage. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Service being cut as finding drivers becomes a widespread challenge.

The coronavirus pandemic led the Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority to pay out massive overtime last year, boosting the pay of several bus drivers above six figures, according to a Dayton Daily News analysis of local government payroll data.

This year RTA is cutting service, and says part of the reason is it can’t find people to take those jobs. After maintaining full service all last year, a persisting bus driver shortage caused the agency to eliminate seven routes and reduce others this year.

RTA paid six bus drivers and four mechanics more than $100,000 last year, with overtime for some reaching more than $50,000.

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“Maintaining full service during a time when more employees were off for COVID-related reasons caused us to have to increase overtime opportunities,” said RTA CEO Bob Ruzinsky.

Ruzinsky was deputy CEO last year and took the helm when former CEO Mark Donaghy retired this April. Donaghy was the agency’s highest-paid employee last year, earning $263,542. Ruzinsky was second at $224,345.

Each cashed out more than $20,000 in unused leave.

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RTA has 230 big bus drivers and is looking to hire 30 to 40 more. They also have 75 drivers for small buses and could use 10 more.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

“RTA is promoting the career aspects of being a bus driver,” Ruzinsky said. “Our top pay is more than fair, benefits are good, and job security is there.”

Becoming an RTA driver requires a good driving record and ability to pass drug tests and background checks. Agency officials say they will train applicants for a commercial drivers license “for those looking for a career.”

RTA bus drivers start at $16.55 an hour, $33,592 a year, and after seven years progress to $27.58 an hour, or $57,366. Overtime and other types of special pay can send pay much higher. Previous Dayton Daily News reporting has found RTA drivers can make more than $100,000 in non-pandemic years.

The staffing shortage isn’t unique to RTA. Finding drivers is a widespread challenge affecting commercial trucking, school districts and waste haulers.

Mike Zimmerman, spokesman for Montgomery County’s workforce development office, said they have funded training for hundreds of displaced workers wanting CDLs last year — a program that can be completed in five weeks. But demand for drivers is apparently still outpacing supply.

RTA ridership is eking back up. Rides dropped from about 800,000 in May 2019 to 400,000 in May 2020. It was closer to 500,000 in May 2021.

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