Officials with the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities testified before lawmakers on Thursday to discuss a scathing Federal Transit Administration report that found the DPU failed in its role of overseeing safety at the MBTA.

During the public hearing, lawmakers suggested shifting the responsibility to another agency or creating a new one. But DPU officials say those options wouldn’t solve the main problem: They have not been able to hire and retain enough qualified people to do the job.

DPU Chair Matt Nelson and Elizabeth Cellucci, director of the Transportation Oversight Division, told lawmakers that they have been scrambling in recent years to hire beyond the seven full-time employees they have on staff, but admitted it has been a difficult and frustrating process. Nelson said in many cases they competed with the MBTA to recruit the same people experienced in transportation safety, but they couldn’t match the T’s financial offerings.

That prompted Sen. Michael Barrett, chair of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, to ask about creating a separate agency that would allow better hiring incentives.

“If the Transportation Oversight Division were an independent commission,” he wondered, “let's say it might well be able to pay hiring bonuses like the MBTA.”

But Cellucci pushed back, saying creating another agency isn't the answer.

“No matter where this division is — whether it's at DPU or in another agency — I think there's still going to be this issue of finding people who are interested in becoming experts on rail safety,” she said.

Barrett was also concerned that the current arrangement meant the DPU was stretched too thin, overseeing not only transportation but other utilities, including gas and electric. He questioned whether the agency was able to take on the additional challenge of stepping up its oversight of MBTA safety.

But Nelson cited the progress he made rebuilding the DPU’s pipeline safety division following the disastrous series of explosions in homes in the Merrimack Valley in 2018, and expressed confidence he could do the same with the railway safety division if given enough time. He did say he had enough money to hire additional staff.

The committee said it would eventually be up the Legislature to decide if a new agency should be created to oversee T safety.