“We want them to hire operators to make life a little easier for our members,” said Goldy Norton, consultant to the United Transportation Union, which represents the drivers. “It’s very tough on our people because they have to work overtime, they have to work on their days off.” The MTA says it’s working on strategies to recruit more operators and will be discussing the issue as it negotiates a new contract. Applicants do not need a high-school diploma but must have a good driving record. And for a variety of reasons – including poor communications or people skills – only one in 10 applicants gets hired, officials said. During training sessions that begin every week, applicants earn $10 an hour. Once they get assigned to their first route, their pay rises to $11 for their first job. Then a funny thing happens. When they get promoted again, their pay is boosted to nearly $13 an hour, but their workload drops to part time. It sounds like a great gig – wages of nearly $20 an hour, plus family health insurance and a lucrative pension. So, why doesn’t anyone want the job? The Metropolitan Transportation Authority needs nearly 260 more drivers to add to its ranks of 4,500, but is struggling to recruit enough applicants. Because of the staffing shortage, it’s racked $57 million in overtime this year to keep the buses and trains running. Although drivers can earn up to $36 an hour working overtime, the regularly extended shifts can be a strain. They can languish in the part-time ranks for years waiting for a coveted full-time job to open. Once they make full time, they earn $19.95 an hour – or $41,500 a year, plus full family health care and pension benefits. Those who were hired before 1997 earn nearly $24 an hour, or $49,800. Despite its extensive use of overtime, the MTA is in compliance with state laws that regulate the amount of time drivers can be behind the wheel, according to Mike Kelley, supervisor of the California Highway Patrol’s motor safety unit, which monitors transit agencies. Drivers can drive as much as 80 hours over eight days for an indefinite period of time. [email protected] (818) 713-3761160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!