Campus shuttle services experience staffing shortages

Campus shuttle services have seen a decline in staff which has impacted the availability of the shuttles to students over the course of the fall 2021 semester.
There have been a variety of reasons for the staffing shortages.
“Currently we have some expected drivers that have been either sick, or out on medical leave, as well as one of the drivers that we had left in June, and we have yet to be able to fill that position,” said Manager of Parking and Transportation at Roger Williams University Catherine Tobin.
She added, “It’s not just shuttle services that are suffering. I know dining is at a low time, they are having a hard time going ahead and getting applicants in as well.”
Interim Director of Public Safety at RWU since September of this year, Mark Porter, said the shortage in shuttle drivers is not just an issue at RWU.
“We have been posting, and trying to recruit different professional drivers, but this whole issue, or shortage, is a bigger problem. We are seeing it in the local region, and also nationally, that there’s been a shortage in qualified shuttle drivers.”
As for why these shortages are occurring, Porter said, “People aren’t coming back to the workforce as they once did, and then for the ones that are coming back, they can certainly pick and choose where they are going because you know, the need for drivers is so high that the starting rates have really blossomed.”
Porter said when people do return to work following the pandemic, they are looking for higher paying transportation jobs.
“I see some of these applicants opting out for a higher paid, higher demand, driving transportation jobs that are out there,” said Porter.
Part of Porter’s plan going forward is to return to the full time shuttle service hours of 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
“Our goal for this semester is to return to full service before the end of the semester, and really revamp for the spring semester,” said Porter. “The one thing that we’ve done so far already is we’ve increased the starting pay for our shuttle position. We’re adding additional per diem, and part time drivers.”
Porter said he is looking to use more campus resources to deal with the shuttle issues.
“I see us looking more toward utilizing more community based resources and support to help us, whether that is using on campus staff or other on campus organizations we can develop a partnership with.”
Until then, however, Tobin is working overtime to put out updated shuttle schedules so that staff and students know what resources are available to them.
As for the process in making these schedules, she said, “It’s trying to go ahead and find the best possible solution for the amount of drivers we have, and what can actually work.”
Porter described the shortage in shuttle staff as “challenging.”
“We are trying to really get ahead of it,” said Porter. “I know it’s challenging, I know it’s very frustrating for some of our students and community members, but it’s a big challenge.”