RWU struggles to recruit new shuttle drivers

Kayla Ebner, Editor-in-chief

Sick shuttle drivers and a driver on vacation have forced RWU’s director of public safety, Steven Melaragno, to cancel the inner campus shuttle three times since Oct. 23.

In the past three weeks or so, Melaragno has sent out three emails on different days, stating that “there will be no inner campus shuttle after 5:00PM tonight.”

The reason for this is not that there are less shuttle drivers than usual. According to Melaragno and Catherine Tobin, Manager of Transportation and Parking, one driver was recently out sick for a couple days and one had a scheduled vacation.

“When someone plans to take vacation, of course we have to honor that,” said Melaragno. “The person who’s on vacation is out which puts us at bare minimum, then when two people go out sick, we have to decide what we’re going to do to cover as much of the service as we can.”

There are 10 shuttle drivers in total at RWU. In order to drive a 24-passenger van, each of these drivers has to have a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) with passenger rating and are subject to random drug testing.

“It’s a limited pool of people that we can get,” said Melaragno. “Many of the people we would hope to hire to be on-call are already working for different school bus companies, so they’re tied up during the day.”

Both Melaragno and Tobin both stated that their priority is to be able to transport students to and from Baypoint and Almeida. During the week, there are routinely 40 people who take the shuttle to campus in the morning.

“We don’t ever want to close down any service at all,” said Tobin. “If there is a shortage, we’re going to have to close down the inner campus [shuttle].”

There is an ongoing effort to hire part-time and on-call drivers, but the university has not been successful because these drivers are working enough hours at their current jobs, and typically, do not want to come to RWU to work at night.

“We don’t have a big batch. When somebody’s out, it makes it difficult to fill that slot,” Melaragno said.

One shuttle service that is guaranteed to students is a holiday shuttle, which takes students to transportation locations such as, Amtrak and T. F. Green airport in Providence, as well as the New London, Conn. ferry.

Students interested in this service must register online by searching “outbound transportation” at rwu.edu.

“We’re always looking at different ways to get the job done and keep it as convenient as we can for the students,” said Melaragno. “Sometimes there’s just not a lot of options.”