A recent analysis of bus drivers for the Minnesota Metro Transit system provided some interesting data:
- Base pay for drivers is nearly $50,000 a year.
- The top earner in the system made $120,000 a year.
- He did this by working, on average, 74 hours a week.
- Overtime in the system has jumped by 52 percent from 2008 to 2010.
- A driver on overtime – paid at time and a half – saves Metro Transit $4 an hour on average.
- This due to the fact that the agency would have to pay for training, additional benefits and pension.
- A union agreement says that no more than 24 percent of Metro Transit’s workforce can be part time – prompting the agency to turn to overtime.
- In October, 89 percent of weekday overtime assignments were during rush hour and lasted less than three hours.
The incentives are undeniable. For a system that demands flexibility; traffic doesn’t occur in neat 8 hour blocks, the rules prohibit the proper response. Further, regulations surrounding benefits, those benefits that include vacation, retirement and health care, make it more cost effective to work an already employed person than to hire someone else. And lastly, being a Metro Transit driver isn’t all that bad; 50 large is a good deal of money.
Finally I’d like to point out that for at least one of these drivers, the overtime is a feature and not a bug. And it’s a feature because of decisions HE’S made in HIS life:
Lance Wallace is happy to drive a few extra hours if it means his wife can stay home with their four children – all younger than 5.
The New Hope man is among the top 5 percent of overtime earners at Metro Transit. Picking up extra shifts and working nearly every day, he averages 60 to 70 hours a week. The $37,700 in overtime he earned last year pushed his total earnings to $86,400.
“I don’t really want to work overtime,” Wallace said. “But I do it to make up the income.”
The extra work doesn’t make him “overly tired,” Wallace said. In fact, after working two jobs before, he “feels good” to now work where he can dictate his own hours.
Mr. Wallace is a father. A father of FOUR. A father of FOUR in a family that has the mother stay home. And of those FOUR kids, all are younger than 5. And this father of four young children is happy that he’s able to work the hours he does in order to prevent having to carry two jobs.
My point? Incentives matter. Raising the cost of hiring means that you will see less hiring. Wage earners will enjoy working more hours if it benefits them, not the other way around. Government union work pays well. People who have 4 kids in 4 years time have a more limited ability to dictate their time.