BILLINGS — Amid a nationwide worker shortage, the city of Billings has come up with a new way to help fight its own shortage of MET transit bus drivers.
The MET transit department in Billings is now training those who get hired to get their Commercial Driver’s License.
“It’s going to be a lot easier on people and hopefully makes them more confident in the position,” said Michael Pope, who has been a MET bus driver for nine years.
Being able to train their own drivers offers the MET transit department many benefits.
“Training in house creates more consistency in what we expect of our drivers and makes it a little easier to get your foot in the door,” said Pope.
CDL training typically costs drivers anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000, making this a big incentive for job seekers.
During the summer, the department was short eight bus drivers, which created scheduling problems. They are now short only two.
The market for drivers with CDLs is competitive as cross-country truckers can make six figures a year.
Training employees also helps the city gather candidates that better fit the role of a bus driver.
“To be honest, I can train somebody to drive a bus, I can train somebody to get their CDL, but I can’t train somebody to be compassionate and work well with people. So, if we can find people who have those skills already and train them to drive a bus, it works out in our favor,” said Keith Adams, a transit supervisor for the MET transit department in Billings.
It takes the city five to six weeks to train somebody to get their CDL and in driver operations.