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When Tony Maldonado was hired by the York Transit Authority 35 years ago, he was one of only about 15 bus drivers.

Now Rabbit Transit, the company has expanded to serve four other counties, and it's competing with trucking companies for limited drivers to fill its roster of approximately 220 drivers, according to Rich Farr, executive director.

Farr said Rabbit Transit currently has about 12 driver openings, and he expects an already evident shortage in available drivers to continue to grow as an issue.

"All you have to do is drive down Route 30 with every other billboard advertising 'Drivers Wanted,'" he said. "There's certainly a shortage."

Jim Runk, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association, said the driver shortage has been an issue for about 10 years, but it has gotten worse recently.

"The average age of drivers now is around 56," Runk said, "It's difficult to get young people in because it's a lot of responsibility and hard work."

Runk said some of the larger trucking companies have begun offering to pay for drivers' educations, and there's been a concerted effort in the industry to recruit ex-military members.

"It's going to get worse in the next five years or so," he said, pointing to industry estimates of 30,000 openings nationally by 2020. "Some of our members have trucks sitting, ready to go, but they can't find quality drivers."

Rabbit Transit recently launched a video recruitment campaign in an attempt to address the issue. The 30-second clips, posted on YouTube, feature personal stories of drivers and riders.

"A transit driver's day is different than a truck driver's," Farr said. "You can come to your family, have holidays and weekends off. And we're not hauling bridges, we're transporting people."

The appeal of sleeping at home every night is why, despite higher wages for truck drivers — Runk said drivers locally can quickly work up to $35,000 to $40,000 per year — Maldonado never considered moving to trucking.

"Family is the most important thing," the 60-year-old Maldonado said.

Dave Schafer, transportation manager for York Container Co. in Springettsbury Township, said his company has been able to avoid driver shortage issues by treating employees and the equipment well.

All deliveries are within 180 miles and no layovers are required, so drivers can still sleep at home every night, Schafer said.

The majority of the company's drivers are in their 50s, Schafer said, but there hasn't been much turnover.

Farr said Rabbit Transit sees a low-to-medium amount of turnover due to "re-retirements."

"We're often people's second career," he said. "It's just the nature of our workforce."

Rabbit Transit is seeking full-time and part-time drivers with varying levels of experience.

The recruitment videos were produced for free by York-based Hayman Institute, according to Farr.

 — Reach David Weissman at dweissman@yorkdispatch.com.

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