“Many people in our community rely on the bus to get to work, school or the doctor,” said Representative Sanchez (D-Dist. 9, Providence). “The driver shortage has rippled out and had a very negative impact. This bill will help.”
Almost 60,0000 people use the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) each day, according to its 2020 annual report. Among those most impacted are Providence high school students, 4,500 of whom utilize bus services to get to and from school. But the driver shortage has caused RIPTA to cancel some services and caused major delays for riders.
The bill (2023-H 5525), which has 35 cosponsors, would require the Governor’s Workforce Board to work with RIPTA and the Division of Motor Vehicles to recruit and train drivers. The board would conduct an outreach campaign in diverse communities throughout the state to recruit applicants. Such applicants would still need to obtain their commercial driver’s license (CDL), but the fee for such training would be waived.
“We have to be realistic, it’s a very tight labor market,” said Representative Sanchez. “To be a RIPTA driver, you need a CDL and proper training. It’s a process. There are plenty of jobs out there so people might think it’s easier to work somewhere else. But if we can reach out to them, tell them about the great benefits and provide free training, I know we can find people to come serve our community.”