SAN FRANCISCO—Reports surfaced last week that drivers for the San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation Agency had called in sick, disabling the system from providing its typical transportation service due to a shortage of drivers.
According to reports, the agency was forced to cancel the Castro Shuttle and a multiple Cole Shuttle runs on Monday, December 26. The amount of drivers that called-in sick was so high that agency officials requested an audit to investigate potential reasons for the absence of drivers.
Jeffrey Flynn, SFMTA’s chief transit officer, told SF Examiner that 10 percent of the transportation system’s operators, 74 in total, were absent on Monday. He also noted that the driver shortage has been continuous, which is why the system is “more vulnerable to the high number of sick days.”
The city controller’s office announced that the San Francisco Muni department has the second highest rate of absenteeism; costing the agency $42 million.
Eric Williams, the union’s president, shared that the drivers who call in sick often do so when requests for time off are denied.
According to reports, Tonia Lediju, who managed the audit for the city controller’s audit, interviewed over 100 Muni employees and explained that “just hiring new employees is not enough.”
“Do we feel valued, do we feel we’re being heard?” Lediju said. “When you have this type of environment, employees do show up and absenteeism goes down. Everything falls on the operators of what’s not making the agency run correctly.”
The agency has been issued 27 recommendations, some of which recommend hiring a person to keep track of absenteeism, develop a policy centered around absences, and improve the reward system for employees and the culture to cultivate worthwhile and effective collaboration and communication. Some of these changes are currently in progress.
With the current shortage, officials are now using between 40 and 50 overtime shifts a day. It was noted that this “may be solved after a few new classes of Muni recruits graduate.”
There is an expected 80 new drivers set to graduate from the agency’s training program over the months of January, February, and March.