Will the industry see a driver shortage over the remainder of 2021? Things already look tricky thanks to short-term pressures. One coach operator is having difficulties thanks to staff being told to self-isolate. Multiple bus companies have curtailed services to best use what resource is available.
To that, add a logistics industry that is seeing a crisis of its own. For staff with PCV and LGV entitlement, the prospect of sometimes well over £15 per hour in road freight may be enough to tempt them away from coach and bus, exacerbating the problem.
A pay rise is the simplest way to start to address a driver shortage, but other factors complicate matters. A second coach operator recently lost four home-to-school contracts to a competitor that will run them for the same rates that it earned 12 years ago.
If the money in a job cannot cover a wage rise, the business is left with two obvious options: Walk away – never easy, and particularly not so now – or hold out and accept that driver supply may be rocky.
For a growing number of operators, and not just in the bus sector, there is increasingly a third avenue: Train recruits that are new to the industry. While not without its pitfalls and certainly not a panacea, it often now proves its worth for small- and medium-sized companies as part of a package of measures that some others may need to examine to secure a long-term supply of staff.