Shortage of bus drivers a new challenge ahead of summer

The majority of the drivers employed by Malta Public Transport are of Maltese nationality, but there is a mix of over 32 different nationalities in the company

Low rates of unemployment have become a challenge for Malta Public Transport, who has to focus on incentivising people to join its team of public transport drivers – particularly ahead of the summer months.

Evidence of this was printed in newspapers this past week in the form of an advert offering a €1,500 bonus for bus drivers who join the team. A spokesperson for Malta Public Transport clarified that this scheme was targeting experienced drivers – who do not require training – in order to fill the gaps in preparation for the hectic summer public transport schedule. “The labour market is what it is. It’s tough, and we need to get ready for summer,” the spokesperson said, explaining that “low unemployment” gave people more options.

“The current climate in Malta in regards to employment gives people a lot of choice,” Malta Public Transport said, adding that the company needs to do its part in incentivising more people to join.

The scheme is just one of many, the spokesperson said, as Malta Public Transport is offering similar incentives of equal value even to its existing drivers.

Currently, the company employs over a thousand drivers. The amount of drivers necessary depends on the demand – something which the company needs to anticipate before things get out of hand. There are currently 130 drivers in training who are expected to be on the road soon.

“We try to have a proactive approach rather than a reactive one,” the spokesperson said, explaining that the scheme was part of a plan to prepare for an increase in demand for summer.

When asked whether a shortage of drivers has negatively affected the service, this newspaper was told that the public transport service has actually improved, “reached a good level of efficiency”, and become more reliable in recent months. The scheme advertised in newspapers was merely a pre-emptive measure ahead of summer, when demand for public transport will increase and extra services will be added, the spokesperson said.

The majority of the drivers employed by Malta Public Transport are of Maltese nationality, but there is a mix of over 32 different nationalities in the company. The contracts offered to drivers are indefinite, although it is entirely up to the drivers, Malta Public Transport said.

But the company would not compromise for the sake of recruiting more drivers, and instead maintains a strict selection and recruitment process despite the current situation vis-a-vis the labour market. Although the summer recruitment scheme is aimed at experienced drivers, Malta Public Transport said it would not consider re-hiring drivers it had sacked. “We still have to maintain our level of service,” the spokesperson said. “We would still refuse people that we have previously fired due to accidents and such.”

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