The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)

With hiring in idle, bonuses rev up to help attract more drivers

- By Alexander Soule

As school bus drivers resume the rounds this week on Connecticu­t streets, some are back on the job after riding out the summer with the aid of weekly unemployme­nt benefits.

Others have yet to return — and across the larger transporta­tion and logistics industry, unemployme­nt continued to inch upward in August despite some of the biggest employers in the trade in Connecticu­t and elsewhere dangling big bonuses to get people behind the wheels of trucks and forklifts.

That ran counter to slow but steady increases in hiring across other major employment sectors over the same span. On Saturday, expanded unemployme­nt benefits come to an end that awarded $300 in extra weekly pay, removing one incentive for any workers choosing to stay on the sidelines.

“Post-COVID — it’s been hell,” said Norm Snyder, CEO of Norwalk-based Reed’s, which delivers it’s ginger beer, root beer and other sodas coast to coast. “The government’s paying [people] more money to stay home . ... I’ve been in this business 40 years, and I’ve never seen it this difficult.”

A catchall category for public transporta­tion, trucking and package delivery from Amazon to the U.S. Postal Service, the transporta­tion and logistics sectics employed nearly 287,000 people in Connecticu­t as of mid-July.

At that point, just over 8,500 of the industry’s workers in Connecticu­t were filing for weekly unemployme­nt benefits from the state Department of Labor, before a three-week run of escalating claims according to DOL’s most recently updated count. Every other major industry tracked by DOL logged decreasing numbers of people on unemployme­nt over that span.

While school vacations have long driven summer increases in the transporta­tion sector’s numbers, logistor companies say they are struggling to find workers in advance of the holiday season when freight

 ?? Hearst Connecticu­t Media file photo ?? An XPO Logistics delivery in Monroe. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the logistics giant has been offering signing bonuses for drivers.
Hearst Connecticu­t Media file photo An XPO Logistics delivery in Monroe. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the logistics giant has been offering signing bonuses for drivers.

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