Joe Petrucci, a former independent trucker in western Pennsylvania, used to transport steel. Today, at 77, he earns union wages 25 hours each week, driving chemotherapy patients to doctor’s appointments, older adults to grocery stores, and children with low-income working moms to day care centers.
Petrucci is one of about 20 drivers — all over 50 — who work for a unique, publicly funded social services program called Allied Coordinated Transportation Services (ACTS) based in New Castle, Penn.
Represented by Teamsters Local 261, the drivers earn $9 an hour, accumulate sick and vacation leave, and can choose to work between 10 and 40 hours each week. Last year ACTS drivers provided 92,000 trips for 1,158 qualified riders.
Launched in 1983, ACTS receives 85 percent of its budget for senior citizen trips from the Pennsylvania Lottery, which targets proceeds to programs that help older state residents. Riders pay the difference in $1 and $2 fares. For those who can’t afford to pay, fares are fully subsidized.
Petrucci, who has been driving with ACTS for two years, enjoys the work. “It’s a way of helping others,” he says. “Many of our riders have nobody; we’re somebody they can talk to going to and from the grocery or doctor.”
And the extra income doesn’t hurt. “Social Security doesn’t go as far as it used to,” Petrucci says, “so the money I make helps to pay for health insurance, gas, things like that.”
Tom Scott, CEO, says, “The age of our drivers makes a difference to our riders, most of whom are over 65. Older drivers have a particular empathy with those individuals, and our clients — young and old — feel comfortable with them.”
Rose Pegnatso can attest to that. At 80 and no longer driving — typically a big concern for those aging in rural areas — Pegnatso gets a ride to doctors appointments from ACTS drivers twice each month. “The drivers are so nice,” she says. “They’re wonderful — like old friends.”
Despite its small size, the program has not gone unnoticed. In 2006 the Pennsylvania Department of Aging named Allied Coordinated Transportation Services the "Small Employer Champion of Older Workers" for its efforts to recruit and retain older workers.
For more information, contact Tom Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org or (724) 658-7258.