The coach and bus industry is “heading for a perfect storm” in sourcing drivers because of a combination of factors, most of which are outside its control, the Senedd’s Climate Change, Environment and Infrastructure Committee heard from sector representatives on 16 September.
Rising rates of pay in other occupations, well-publicised difficulties at DVLA and an ageing driver demographic have combined to create a shortage that is showing little sign of a short-term solution, Committee members were told.
While the mainstream media has concentrated on the HGV driver shortage, Newport Bus Managing Director and Coach and Bus Association Cymru Chair Scott Pearson says that the “exact same problem” is happening in the passenger sector “across the UK.”
He notes that prior to the pandemic, shortages were evident in certain areas. “Now we are seeing them across the board.” Mr Pearson adds that one operator in South Wales has drafted in drivers from London to maintain services. While delays at DVLA have made a major contribution to the problem, he says that other factors are also having a major impact.
PCV drivers’ pay has risen in some cases, although it appears that further increases may be necessary to return to a state of equilibrium. However, Mr Pearson says that home shopping and the increasing number of vans on the road, along with rocketing rates for driving HGVs for those with the requisite entitlement, are shrinking the available pool for coach and bus operators. Attracting newcomers to make up for that is “challenging,” he says, and not just because of DVLA’s difficulties.
Lifestyle changes among older drivers brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic are a further factor, Confederation of Passenger Transport Cymru Director Josh Miles told the Committee. Some of those staff members are now reluctant to put themselves in a position of dealing with the public and they “have made the decision to leave the sector,” he continues. “That is something that could not have been foreseen.”