Labor productivity in transportation service has declined in recent decades (citation). Unions have grown in membership and influence and have often won workers such contract elements as the eight-hour work day. As an example, the eight-hour work day brings workers stable income and often benefits associated with full-time employment. Transit operation, however, does not lend its self well to eight-hour work shifts. Because transit demand peaks in the morning and afternoon commute times, more workers are needed during these periods than in the middle of the workday. Without part time or flexible shift workers, transit agencies are forced to staff full-time vehicle operators to their highest peak demand, loosing many hours of productivity when these same workers are idle midday.
Strategies for increasing labor productivity
Several strategies exist for increasing labor productivity. Two of the most common strategies are contracting for transit operation service and altering current labor regulations.
When to use contracted labor
Though contracting service often leads to losses to labor, contracting service can be beneficial to transit agencies in some cases. When significantly different labor laws exist for directly hired versus contract workers, transit agencies may benefit by contracting with more workers in order to achieve more schedule flexibility. Additionally, when transit agencies are expanding service or undergoing other temporary or experimental service increases, contract labor offers a good alternative to directly hired workers.
When to lobby for altering labor laws
If labor regulations for contracted labor are not more flexible than for directly hired labor, or when transit agencies do not have the option of contracting labor, transit agencies may benefit from altering existing labor laws.