LTC seeking customer-friendly drivers

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If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to be a driver for London Transit, it’s more than just knowing how to pilot a bus.

You also have to have excellent customer service skills.

The commission in charge of public transit in London is in the midst of doing a lot of hiring.

LTC administrators have already hired 24 drivers (or “operators,” as they are known in official transit jargon) in 2017, and plan to hire at least 10 more before the year is over.

“We’ve changed the last 10 to 15 years to put a lot more emphasis on customer service,” LTC general manager Kelly Paleczny said.

That means that, while a trucker who spends all day driving may have an A, B, C or D licence, that doesn’t mean he or she is good at relating with the public.

“Certainly, customer service skills are a big part of the job,” Paleczny said.

The openings are mostly due to operators retiring. The commission is in year three of a five-year plan, adding 20,000 hours of service annually — which would require, at a minimum, to hire 11 operators per year. Covering retirements and attrition makes hiring above and beyond that number necessary.

Paleczny said there is no composite profile for LTC drivers, who come in both genders and all backgrounds. “It’s all over the map,” she said of the traits of a typical operator.

And don’t even think of getting hired if you have any demerit points — only those with spotless driving records need apply. Another requirement is a minimum of 2,000 driving hours.

The LTC uses a third-party company, Drake International, to score drivers on their aptitude for putting forth a pleasing and happy face to riders. They are ranked using a 100-question survey. Drake comes up with a minimum score, beneath which candidates are excluded from being hired.

“The system that we’re using right now we’ve been using for just over a year,” Paleczny said, adding it has been reliable in predicting any given operator’s temperament. Also important is a willingness to work weekends and evenings. She said the split between hometown applicants and those from outside communities, such as Toronto, is about even.

Meanwhile, the LTC has come up with a deadline of next April for moving buses off Dundas Street, a controversial move that has resulted in chaos when attempted in the past.

“The reason (the deadline) got bumped was basically due to the whole discussion about rapid transit,” Paleczny said. “There was just a whole bunch of balls up in the air.” 

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