Tranzurban's ambitious bus driver recruitment targets on track
Tranzurban, one of Metlink’s largest bus operators, has set itself an ambitious target to recruit 75 new drivers by 31 March 2023 and thanks to an increase in local interest, new immigration pathways and two new recruitment campaigns rolling out – they are confident these targets will be achieved and are already halfway there.
Tranzurban has more than 40 new bus drivers in the pipeline to drive Metlink’s Wellington City, Porirua and Hutt Valley public transport services.
During 2022, Tranzurban Hutt Valley achieved a near full complement of bus drivers, the first time since before the pandemic, while Tranzurban Wellington still needing approximately 40 full time drivers, having been impacted more heavily by the national driver shortage that’s affecting many towns and cities throughout New Zealand and across the world.
Tranzurban Wellington General Manager Samuel Stairmand says job offers to 18 overseas drivers have been made and, with immigration processing going to plan, they should start local training in March. A further 26 potential overseas drivers are at the interview phase and, if offered employment and with immigration processing going to plan, should start their local training in April. Ten local recruits are also in training and are expected to be rostered into service from mid-February.
“Our recruitment efforts are ongoing, and we’ve started to see a change in the candidates interested in our driving roles,” says Mr Stairmand.
“We have more interest from locals and thanks to the borders reopening, new pathways for international drivers entering New Zealand, as well as significant pay increases for our drivers, we’ve also been able to look at overseas recruitment for the first time, which is yielding great results.”
“While we recognise that more drivers are needed in the short term to account for annual leave and other leave, we will continue to bring in up to 10 drivers from outside the Wellington region to help cover the expected shortfalls until we have a full driving team. In addition, we will be launching a new recruitment campaign attracting new people into the industry, especially the younger demographic,” add Mr Stairmand.
Tranzurban’s new local recruitment campaign launched mid-February on multiple channels, including radio, social media, community engagement, bus advertising, and at universities targeting students coming back into the city. Tranzurban believes that Wellington will start seeing the results of local recruitment efforts from mid-March and the positive impacts of overseas recruitment from early to mid-April.
Councillor Thomas Nash, Chair of Greater Wellington’s Transport Committee, says Tranzurban’s recruitment efforts will be welcomed by public transport passengers who are feeling the impact of the national driver shortage through cancellations.
“Ensuring these local and overseas drivers are well looked after and get behind the wheel is the focus now. We know that job offers, visa processing and local training take time, but in the months to come these efforts will go a long way to reducing the 125 drivers Metlink needs to deliver its current timetable, help reduce the significant number of cancellations on the network, ensure more reliability to passengers and, once we are back on track, to start expanding the frequency and reach of our network,” says Cr Nash.
New Zealand has been in the grip of a national driver shortage for a number of years, and this was exacerbated by COVID-19, the introduction of rest and meal break legislation requiring more drivers on the network and record low unemployment levels.
In that time Greater Wellington Regional Council has partnered with operators, including Tranzurban, to aid recruitment and retention of urban bus drivers across the Metlink network, ushering in rest and meal breaks, embarking on a programme of rest facility upgrades, reorganising timetables to reduce split-shifts, bringing in the Living Wage, topping up wages to $27 per hour (with Tranzurban increasing further to $28 late last year), and committing to $30 per hour later this year.
“While our collective recruitment actions have hopefully prevented a worse crisis locally, we’ve long called for more national action to promote bus driving as an attractive career. That’s why it’s encouraging to see our council’s efforts to push for higher wages, a fair pay agreement and more open immigration settings paying off now with people showing enthusiasm locally and internationally to get behind the wheel of a bus and be part of this region’s highly valued public transport network,” adds Cr Nash.