DTA launches unique way to address driver shortage

DULUTH, MN. (Northern News Now) – According to leaders with the Duluth Transit Authority, they’re short-staffed, and looking to hire more bus drivers.

They’re offering a unique, hands-on experience this week that could give you a taste of what the job entails.

Rod Fournier has spent much of his working life behind the wheel of a city bus.

“I was a bus driver for nearly 16 years,” Fournier said.

Now Fournier is General Manager for the DTA.

He said being a bus driver was an incredibly rewarding job.

“Overall it’s the people you get to deal with every day that was probably one of the best aspects of it,” Fournier said.

But lately, the DTA has had trouble attracting applicants for bus driver positions.

“We were about 15 bus operators short. We’ve done a lot to encourage folks to apply to these roles,” said David Clark, Director of Marketing for the Duluth Transit Authority.

According to Clark, later this week they’re trying a new approach.

The DTA isn’t just telling people about driving a bus, they’re letting them get behind the wheel to try it out.

They’re holding their first “Your Turn To Drive” event Friday, October 14 from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and Saturday, October 15 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

At the event, you can drive a city bus through a simulated course in the parking lot at Duluth Heritage Center.

“We thought it was really important to give people a chance to have a perspective on what it’s really like to drive a bus,” Clark said.

“We like to say we can teach anybody to drive a bus, over the years we’ve proven that,” Fournier said.

According to Fournier, the most important quality may be more personality based.

“What we really look for is those people that like to engage with the public and are people persons,” Fournier said.

And while test driving a bus can be fun, Clark said he’s hoping it will inspire people to sit in the driver’s seat for the long haul.

“It’s a very meaningful career that serves the community,” Clark said.

This past summer, the DTA had planned to launch a new simplified service system, which they developed from their Better Bus Blueprint study over the past few years.

They didn’t have enough staff to make those changes, that’s one reason for this event.

You do have a register first, and the spots are limited.

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