A key to our success has been the relationship we maintain with our employees. This has become even more important in an ever-tightening labor market. Currently, 56% of our drivers have been with us for a minimum of 10 years. We are a service provider therefore everything we do hinges on the actions of our staff. Our maintenance staff is motivated by the quality of our facilities and the resources and support we give them to do the job properly. Our drivers are motivated by the condition of the buses and the way they are treated by every level of management. This is reflected in a low turnover rate and a New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) pass rate of 98%. We have a dedicated, experienced dispatch team that frequently receives customer praise, so consequently we have low turnover and very few openings. The turnover rate for Suffolk Transportation is 9.8% per year. Everyone at our Company is treated with respect and dignity, and in many cases, staff is included in the decision making process. Monthly safety meetings are attended by the President and the Chief Operating Officer who address the concerns of the staff, review all accidents and incidents for the month, and discuss all upcoming safety classes. Road supervisors relay their concerns and those of the workforce. In 2009, the management team for Suffolk Transportation implemented quarterly quality control meetings with drivers, supervisors, dispatchers and union representatives. This effort has resulted in great dialogue and suggestions for improving service and increasing service efficiencies. Issues that are of general concern are addressed in our weekly safety newsletter. All of this is done in cooperation with the collective bargaining unit that represents the property, Transport Workers Union of America (TWU) Local 252.
Suffolk Transportation was the very first ground transportation company to successfully negotiate a five-year labor agreement in 1986. In July 2011 we completed our fifth 5-year agreement with the TWU, well in advance of the expiration of the current agreement. Understanding the current economic climate, our employees have agreed to modest wage increases with very reasonable modifications to benefit levels. With a well-developed culture that focuses on excellent service to the customer delivered by the best employees in the industry, Suffolk Transportation has had one arbitration in 17 years and we have never had an NLRB violation grievance filed against the Company. The combination of a fair wage package with benefits, respectful supervision and a structured discipline procedure all serve to produce a team of safe, courteous and motivated employees. In 2014 we spoke with our workforce about amending the union contract to spread the last two years of annual increases in a 5-year labor agreement across a third year. This resulted in a 6-year contract with costs equal to the original 5-year contract. This concession would improve our ability to be competitive in future Requests for Proposals that may arise and not price ourselves above our competition. The union constituents voted to approve the contract extension with an overwhelming 90% vote of "yes." This is a testament to the respect and understanding each employee has for our business model.
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Our current employee base has recommended 40% of the applicants over the past year. A true measure of employee satisfaction is that they would recommend their family and friends to work with us. Many of our employees live and participate in the communities we serve. They take pride in their jobs because their neighbors and friends know they are the local bus drivers. Employee demeanor and character play a major role in our hiring qualifications. Each applicant undergoes a rigorous interview process. For the last few years, all applicants have been given a reading and writing assessment to determine their command of the English language. Those individuals who do not possess a good command of the English language are given information about ESL classes and encouraged to reapply in the future. Upon successful completion of the initial interview, qualified applicants undergo a rigorous reference check, background check and criminal history check through the NYS Unified Court System. If the applicant passes these stringent tests, he/she meets with the Chief Operating Officer of the Company. New hires must submit to a DOT medical physical, PPD test and pre-employment drug test. They must agree to future random drug testing including post-accident and reasonable suspicion drug testing. Our corporate drug and alcohol free workplace policy is outlined in the System Safety Program Plan, which was recently updated in 2013 as a result of a recent FTA triennial review. Members of our operations management team along with road supervisors recently were trained and certified in accordance with the Department of Transportation rules for reasonable suspicion drug testing.
Once hired, new employees meet with our Safety and Training Department where their driving skills are assessed, and they attend pre-service classes and complete the 19-A certification and physical performance tests. Only upon the successful completion of their training are our employees issued an ID badge and uniform. The training does not stop upon hire. The driving skills of our employees are constantly honed through daily (road and platform) observations, on-board camera reviews, as well as our weekly Safety and Training Newsletters. Our training continues with in-house training courses listed below:
The Company has an Affirmative Action Plan and the goals are reviewed each year. It is the policy of Suffolk Transportation to provide equal opportunity to all qualified employees and applicants without regard to a person's race, gender, religion, creed, marital status, color, sex, sexual orientation, age, physical or mental disability, genetic information, victimization by domestic violence, national origin, or military or veteran status or other status protected by law. Furthermore, we comply with all minimum wage standards, the State Occupational Safety and Health Act and the Toxic Substance Act.