Veolia Transportation held a job fair for current employees of...

Veolia Transportation held a job fair for current employees of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Long Island Bus service who are seeking employment when Veolia takes over day-to-day operations of the service on Sunday, Jan. 1. (Sept. 29, 2011) Credit: Steve Pfost

More than 350 people lined up Friday to apply for an unknown number of driver, mechanic and dispatcher positions up for grabs when Nassau County's public bus system switches to a private operator.

Current Long Island Bus employees will be the first hired when Veolia Transportation takes over Jan. 1.

But that didn't stop outside job-seekers like Eurgle Ruan from flocking to the Long Island Marriott in Uniondale to fill out applications.

Ruan, 37, of Roosevelt, has been unemployed for two years after losing a driver's job with a liquor distribution company. The father of two young children has a commercial driver's license and was among those filling a hotel conference room in hopes of getting behind the wheel of a bus.

"I have to provide for my kids and that's the most stressful part," said Ruan, who says he's applied for more than 100 jobs. In the meantime, he's moved into his mother's house and cut back on nearly everything.

"I'll do anything at this point. I just need a job," he said.

During the last two days, 500 people showed up for the job fair, company officials said.

In June, Nassau County selected Veolia to run Long Island Bus after the county was unable to reach an agreement with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which has been running the system since 1973.

Michael Setzer, the new bus system's chief executive, couldn't say how many positions will be available in the revamped operation. It's unclear how many current employees will make the transition. Some may want to get other jobs with MTA or opt to retire, he said.

More than 900 current Long Island Bus employees, represented by Transport Workers Union Local 252, have until Oct. 11 to submit a job application to Veolia for preferential hiring rights. Setzer said he wanted to move quickly on hiring, and having applications in hand will help speed the transition.

"We expect that a high-quality, experienced workforce will be operating the bus system come Jan. 1," Setzer said.

In hopes of becoming one of those seasoned employees, Steven Roth, 47, of West Hempstead, took time out of his day Friday as a taxi driver.

When an interviewer asked whether he was willing to work flexible hours, Roth said: "I'll take as much OT as I can get."

Roth impressed the interviewer with his skill set. He said he's driven tractor trailers, box trucks, tour buses, and vans for people with disabilities.

"And my license is totally clean," he said.

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