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October 10 2018
By Jessica Barton

Jessica writes for routeone, Group Tourism & Travel, and is the Editor of Coach Drivers Club News

15 minutes with Emma Brough

Silloth-based Spencer Graham Coaches’ Operations Manager discusses the firm’s resurgence and why she is on a mission to promote coach driving as a career

Q: How long have you been working for Spencer Graham Coaches?
A: My partner Ricky Robinson and I acquired the firm in May 2016. We now run two businesses – this coach operation alongside Robinson Car and Commercial.      

The firm was awarded ‘Delivering Excellent Service’ at this year’s Center Parcs Supplier Awards

Q: How did the purchase come about?
A: Ricky did the maintenance on Spencer Graham’s vehicles. Spencer wanted to hand the business over to someone who was going to successfully carry it on when he retired.

Q: What did you do before?
A: I am also a health care assistant, but I have started coming into the business more as my help was needed.

Q: How has the firm changed over the last 2.5 years?
A: When it was purchased, the fleet size was six and we now have 10. We have invested in the renewal of our fleet and replaced some of the older vehicles. Over the last two years we have also introduced new branding, bringing a fresh and contemporary look to our image.

Q: What has been the biggest achievement?
A: We have just been awarded ‘Delivering Excellent Service – Local Supplier Whinfell Forest’ at this year’s Center Parcs Supplier Awards. Also, when we began the entire fleet was 10+ years old, but 40% of it is now under two years old, which we feel is a massive achievement.

Q: How many drivers do you employ?
A: We have 18 full- and part-time drivers, five of which are women. It has been a struggle to get drivers, but it is becoming easier now that we have higher-spec vehicles for them to drive.

Q: Why did you decide to go for your Category D licence?
A: I wanted to be able to relate to all of our drivers and have a better understanding of the job we are employing them to do. It has given me a wealth of knowledge important to helping with the day-to-day running of the business. However, in doing so, I realised just how much the industry doesn’t have that many women or young people coming into it.

Q: What do you think puts people off?
A: One of the biggest problems is the cost of doing the training, especially for young drivers. We’re quite lucky that we have a good training centre near us in Carlisle, that has helped us secure a lot of funding for our drivers’ training and Driver CPC. I was able to go down the apprenticeship route, so it was very heavily funded. Also, I think there are misconceptions of what the job involves – working conditions are a lot better now than what they have been. It’s just about finding the right operator to work for.

Q: How do you think operators can promote coach driving more?
A: I am going to the local press about the fact that I got my licence as I am really keen to promote coach driving as a career for women and young people in general. Due to the cost of training, more coach operators could help with the costs, as well as promoting the job more in their communities.

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