Breaking News
More () »

CATS facing overtime violations; staffing shortage creating challenges for the agency

City leaders say services are being impacted by the ongoing issues.

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — Low staffing continues to create challenges for the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS). The agency is not only focused on hiring more people but also on keeping the people they have on staff already.

“We have a shortage of staff that has caused some correspondence to take place with the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) and the possibility that we might need to adjust schedules to maintain staffing levels,” said Charlotte city councilman Ed Driggs.

The agency was slapped with another violation, this time due to overtime hours. CATS received six "hours of service" violations from NCDOT for violating the overtime hours policy.

A letter from the state notes rail operators should not work more than 12 hours straight and no more than 60 hours a week.

For the latest breaking news, weather and traffic alerts, download the WCNC Charlotte mobile app.

“Some people were logging in early for their shift, then working their shift and not hurrying to log out,” said Driggs. “So the times NCDOT saw was plus 15 minutes on either side -- that was the real issue. It was a violation in that sense.”

Driggs said the agency is working to train employees to make sure they are properly clocking in and out.

This also comes at a time when CATS put mandatory paid time off (PTO) in place after NCDOT directed the agency to properly staff its rail operating center or to stop operations.

“If we fail to have a minimum of two staff available when we have three requirements or stations in the ROCC (Rail Operations Control Center), that could lead to further action, up to or a recommendation to close a line -- not the entire system but a line, i.e. the gold line,” said interim CEO Brent Cagle.

Faced with staffing shortages, the agency made changes to some of its service hours for the Gold Line.

“Those are hours where ridership is very low, and that was regarded as the best adjustment to be made and we don’t anticipate further adjustments will be,” said Driggs.

Driggs also said recruiting and retaining staff remains a top priority.

“There are certain skills that are required for the jobs in question like at the operations center, so we are pressing to train people and recruit people," he said. "We are managing our schedules and overtime hours to have the necessary complement on-site at each point in time.”

You can stream WCNC Charlotte on Roku and Amazon Fire TV, just download the free app.

Driggs also didn't foresee much more impact on the Gold Line. He adds CATS leaders are being aggressive with recruitment for both the bus and rail systems.

“On our rail division, we are making adjustments to be much more competitive for rail operators, for the ROCC, controllers, for rail car maintenance," said Cagle. "All of those we are being very aggressive in increasing pay stop losing people and retain employees and to make it more attractive for recruitment."

Cagle said he is seeing an improvement in retention. Driggs said they are also focused on increasing safety and security for staff following several violent incidents onboard buses.

“Well, the things you do to try to attract more people and retain people is to improve the working environment and there was a bad environment," said Driggs. "There was no question that the stuff that we learned about CATS made for bad working conditions so that is a key thing we can do."

City leaders said they want to make sure that working for CATS is a rewarding experience for people who work there. When it comes to the CEO search, Driggs said that remains on pause until the agency is more stabilized.

CATS told WCNC Charlotte on Wednesday the transit system has 449 operators as of June 3, 2023, with 114 openings. In April, the system had 447 operators and 115 openings.

Contact Jesse Pierre at jpierrepet@wcnc.com or follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Before You Leave, Check This Out