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Posted at 10:36 PM ET, 01/14/2011

What it takes to drive a Metrobus

By Luke Rosiak

Friday's story on Metro's budget gap revealed that overtime payouts are rising, and overtime wages represent more than 10 percent of a $72 million budget gap.

Metro officials attributed that to a shortage of bus drivers caused by a hiring freeze in past years, more stringent criminal backround rules and a hiring process that winnows down 1,000 people into a pool of 30 candidates--not even 30 hires.

That raised the question of what it takes to be a Metrobus driver, and how hard it could be to attract qualified candidates in a down economy with massive unemployment.

To gain some insight, The Post took a look at 208 test results from three pools of applicants who made it far enough in the process to sit for tests last month, which were posted online with anonymized names so applicants could see whether they were invited back for an interview. If you score at least 70 percent on customer service and reading comprehension and at least 50 percent on a behavioral assessment, you've got an interview. Fewer than one in five made it.

Below, we see behavior on the up-and-down axis, and customer service on the left-to-right one among all those who took the test. The fact that the dots are in two separate, distinct groups rather than a diagonal line show that strangely, providing good customer service and having Metro give you a positive behavioral assessment are almost at odds with one another. In fact, every single test-taker with behavioral scores of at least 65 percent had customer service rankings that made them ineligible to drive a bus. Those with behavioral scores of under 50 percent were also ineligible. The top 77 applicants with the highest behavioral marks all failed, because none of them received satisfactory customer service marks.

Behavior (vertical) vs. customer service (horizontal) scores

We see the same thing with reading versus Metro's "behavioral assessment." See how the dots clustered all the way to the right, representing the best readers, are in the middle vertically, not in the top corner? The best readers seem to be the ones who Metro said lacked the personality to drive a bus. (On the other hand, if you were a decent reader--in the 70 percent-ish range -- that was a good predictor that you'd do well on the behavioral assessment.)

Behavior (vertical) vs. reading (horizontal) scores

Customer service correlated more closely with reading. The more literate they were, the more helpful, in general.

Now let's take a look at those who passed the test. The average successful test-taker scored 80 percent on customer service (no one scored higher than 93) and 95 percent on reading. The average behavioral assessment was 54 percent, just higher than the minimum of 50 required, and no successful applicant scored higher than 63. Meanwhile, 16 applicants got perfect behavioral scores, and all of them were turned down for an interview.

Among failing test-takers, average customer service was merely 57 percent; reading was 75, and behavioral assessment was 66 percent.

Some notes from Metro on the next step for those who pass the test:

To complete the interview process, you must bring the following:

  • A valid driver's license and/or CDL from jurisdiction in which you reside

  • Social Security Card

  • Original or Official High School Diploma or GED Certificate or Transcript with raised seal

  • Professional attire is required, NO blue jeans, sneakers or athletic wear

  • Please allow at least three (3) hours or more for this process

Other necessary qualifications:

Graduation from high school or possession of a high school equivalency certificate (GED). Must have three (3) years of continuous and verifiable post high school employment or a combined three (3) years of verifiable full or part-time student status and employment history. At least one (1) year of direct customer service and/or prior commercial bus, taxi or limousine driving experience.

Bus drivers start at an hourly rate of $15.62 after an 8 week training course at $10.69.

View, sort and filter all the scores here.

Pass vs. Fail

By Luke Rosiak  | January 14, 2011; 10:36 PM ET
Categories:  Metro, Metrobus  
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Comments

Good reporting Luke &the WaPo, as I was curious about the qualifications necessary, after reading this story yesterday.
My intial impression is that driver's are not paid enough, and the testing process is too stringent. Wouldn't a high school education with no major criminal past, good driving skills, and good interviewing skills be enough?

Posted by: Hattrik | January 14, 2011 2:49 PM | Report abuse

What is involved in the behavioral assessment in this test?

Posted by: maenglish14 | January 18, 2011 8:07 AM | Report abuse

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