February 24, 2022
CUTR, Tampa, FL
The Florida Transit Safety and Operations Network (FTSON) meeting was held on February 24, 2022 at USF Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR) in Tampa, Florida. The meeting was called to order by Paul Goyette, Program Manager of the FTSON, who welcomed the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Central Office representatives Tony Brandin, FDOT Transit Operations Manager, Bobby Westbrook, Operations Administrator/Assistant Manager, Elizabeth Stutts, State Transit Manager and all participants – present and remotely. There were 39 attendees.
All participants introduced themselves, the agency they represented and their position at the agency; a sign-in sheet and agenda of the meeting is attached. The FTSON meeting was held immediately following the Florida Transit Maintenance Consortium (FTMC) meeting, allowing for a joint session of both groups since many items and challenges have crossover concerns. This was especially true in regards to the first item presented regarding hiring and retention of operations and maintenance personnel.
FTSON and FTMC Joint Session – Transit Hiring, Recruiting and Retention
Post Pandemic Labor Market Analysis’ Presented by Hillsborough Community College
A presentation entitled regarding the ‘Post Pandemic Labor Market Analysis’ was given by John Meeks, Hillsborough Community College. The presentation covered the impacts of hiring and retention of employees for all industries, more specifically transportation and transit. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 3.9 million workers quit their jobs each month in 2021, topping the 2019 average of 3.5 million. Resignation rates are 3.8% in the trade, transportation and mining employment sector. The resignation rates are highest among mid-career employees, this trend is called the Great Resignation.
Various reasons were given for the resignations, chiefly being the (direct and indirect) impacts of Covid-19. Several charts denoting state and national labor participation, unemployment rates and unfilled jobs were provided. Transit job postings vs. hires were presented, as well as the median weekly salaries based upon national vs. state rates. Also shown were how other industry positions may be taking away from transit. The charts demonstrated the number of ‘quits’ in the U.S., labor participation rates, unemployment rates, unfilled jobs, and new job postings. Salaries of transit vs. salaries of other similar jobs (bus, truck, diesel) were discussed, as was the lack of confidence for a career in the transit industry. Competition from other transportation jobs seems to be a major factor.
It was suggested the transit agencies form an alliance to market career opportunities in transit to overcome some of these issues. Become assertive and creative with recruitment and retention. Utilize digital ads, electronic billboards, job fairs and community outreach events. Other suggestions included Sign-on, Referral, and retention bonuses. Expand the applicant pool to recruit underserved populations that face barriers to employment because of geographic location, religion, sexual orientation, age, disabilities, criminal records, racial and ethnic backgrounds. Partner with local community-based organizations, veteran’s groups, local schools, technical and state colleges, and youth groups. Graduates often haven’t clarity of what to do after graduation.
Recommendations to streamline the hiring process included fewer interviews, conducting remote interviews, make faster hiring decisions, and eliminate automated software that may be filtering out qualified applicants. Re-evaluate education and experience requirements for employment to avoid a skills mismatch, and offer training programs for entry-level workers, upskilling and reskilling for existing employees. It is important to solicit input and feedback to improve productivity – big gains can come from employee ideas to reduce or eliminate menial tasks and redesign the workflow.
Ultimately, agencies will need to Improve working conditions for employee health and safety, improve pay and benefits, offer perks such as child-care, tuition reimbursement, and flexible time off. Agencies should re-examine work schedules and hours for efficiency and employee satisfaction. To change the morale of your staff, re-examine management style and corporate culture – does it align with the expectations of Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X and Boomers? Offer opportunities for professional development and growth for the employees. Information, suggestions and other comments were well received by the Joint Session of the FTSON and FTMC.
Post-Presentation Activity and Discussion
Following the presentation, a Post-Presentation Activity and Discussion was held. These questions were posed to the audience:
- What are your current challenges for recruiting?
- What are you doing? Is it working?
- What other things could you be doing? Are there any obstacles for these solutions?
The audience was asked to postulate responses to the three questions on provided sticky notes, and then place the sticky note on the easel boards located in the front of the room. Participation from the audience was enthusiastic with responses filling three boards. This feedback will be assembled into an info sheet to be shared with the Network.
Utilizing Existing Scheduling Platform
FTSON Project Manager Paul Goyette facilitated a discussion regarding the utilization of existing scheduling platform by offering flexible schedules that consider transit worker challenges, re-working run cuts/schedules that consider operator/technician input, ensuring transit worker safety (pandemic, personal security, etc.), competitive pay, benefits, time off, etc.
LUNCH BREAK – On Your Own
New FMCSA CDL Entry Level Driver Training (ELDT)
After the break, Tod Browning of the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLSMV) division spoke to the Network via Teams. Tod gave a clear definition of ELDT – Entry Level Driver Training and new federal regulations that will be implemented on February 7, 2023. It was an informative dialog explaining the involvement of Florida Third Party Examiners (TPR), and how to register for the TPR including the new ELDT in current curriculums. There are approximately 350 testers statewide at present. Requirements to be a tester are listed on the FLHSMV website at https://www.flhsmv.gov/. Testers must conduct 10 tests per year to maintain their status; otherwise, the tester will be required to take a refresher course before administering tests.
When sharing testers among the agencies, make sure it is approved within the contract (if applicable). Paul (CUTR) added that a Rule 14-90 FAC/FMCSA ELDT Comparison Sheet is being generated by CUTR. This will be presented to the Network as soon as it is finalized.
The state of Florida is not changing its testing requirements at this time; however, it is imperative to train as the federal law requires. It’s very important to meet the requirements of Chapter 14-90 while abiding by the requirements of the FMCSA, who requires proper testing paperwork to be tracked/verified. You are not allowed to issue a test until the driver has completed the required training. The test will be invalid if the test is administered prior to the training being completed. It typically takes 2 days after the test schedule is requested before the test can be administered. It was encouraged to get CLP before February 7, 2023. The FTSON asked Tod to come back and present at the Safety and Operations Summit coming up in June 2022 on this important topic as there is much information to be dissected.
Approval of Minutes of the Meeting
After lunch and the ELDT presentation, the regular meeting of the FTSON resumed. The minutes of the previous meeting of the Florida Transit Safety and Operations Network, held in Daytona Beach on October 25, 2021 during the FPTA Annual Conference, were unanimously approved. The minutes can be found on the FTSON website at www.ftson.org.
Tony Brandin (FDOT) provided updates from FDOT Central Office. The message coming from Tallahassee is it’s time, more than ever, for public transit to assist with reducing ever-increasing traffic congestion. Information regarding ways to bring the private sector, public transit and all walks of life together while being customer centric will be presented at the next Mobility Action Plan meeting. We need to think public transit as the means of all mobility.
Update on New Rule Chapter 14-90, FAC
Bobby (FDOT) provided a F.A.C. Chapter 14-90 update. He assured everyone that it is a complicated process, please be patient. Changes made will endure and affect the way the industry operates. He will keep us posted on progress. It takes time to amend the rule, and there are reasons for that.
Ridership numbers are spiraling downward. In the process of figuring out why the numbers are down; it is important to get the message on the benefits of public transit out. The Pandemic had a major impact on public transit. Bobby (FDOT) stated that in his 43 years of experience, it was the worst he had ever seen. Our task is to bring new people to transit, and get the word out to everyone that transit is the mobility of the future. FDOT wants to reinvent the purpose and image of public transit, we cannot continue to address it as we have done in the past. We need to take what we have done today, and turn it into action for tomorrow.
Ongoing Small Agency Support
CUTR is ready, willing and available to the small agencies who are in need of technical support of all types. Reach out to Paul (CUTR) if you have questions, issues or hit hurdles. If you need assistance with your TOP or other items (i.e., preparing for the Review, etc.) reach out to CUTR and we will find you the right person for the job!
The priorities of the network will always be fluid, a moving target as the needs of the agencies are not stationary needs, they must change to meet the needs of the customer and the requirements of state and federal law. The FTSON will be on point to assist with updates, notifications and implementation of such.
Response to Compliance Review Findings (5310 and 5311)
Bobby (FDOT) encouraged everyone to share their thoughts openly on these review findings. The feedback is a great tool to be able to make the system better for all.
FTSON Co-Chair Nominations
In accordance with the FTSON Charter, the 2020-2022 Co-Chair James Egbert (MCAT) will be the incoming Chair of the FTSON serving a two-year term. Nominations for the election of a new Co-Chair, serving for two years (2022-2024) will be opened as outlined in the Charter. Each agency is permitted one nomination; each agency is also permitted to cast one vote for the position of Co-Chair. The elected person will become the Chair after fulfilling the two-year term as Co-Chair. (Full details are provided in the Charter at www.ftson.org.)
An email will be sent to the FTSON listserv requesting bios of those who would like to be a candidate for the Co-Chair position; a person can nominate themselves. After nominations are received and the candidates are assembled, a formal final survey vote will be conducted thru the listserv. Bios for candidates must be received by Paul (CUTR) by Friday, March 11, 2022.
FPTA/FDOT/CUTR Professional Development Workshop & Transit Safety and Operations Summit
The FPTA/FDOT/CUTR Professional Development Workshop & Transit Safety and Operations Summit will be held on June 6-8, 2022 at the USF Embassy Suites in Tampa. Topics to be discussed will include Hiring, Recruitment, and Retention, Suicide Prevention and Recognition, Cybersecurity, Bus Accident Investigation and Crashworthiness and Drug and Alcohol Program updates. Registration for the event will open early April.
With no further business, the meeting adjourned at 2:34 pm.