Do you have any Master Drivers on board?

NXWM recognises abilities and professionalism of its best drivers, generating some excellent results

Delegates at last week’s Young Bus Managers Network conference were told how National Express West Midlands (NXWM)’s Master Driver scheme is driving up standards and job satisfaction among drivers at three of the operator’s depots in the West Midlands.

Volunteers apply to enrol on the Master Driver course, and NXWM requires high standards from those who are successful, including an average Gold rating – the highest – on its Traffilog telematics system for the previous six months.

Three depots are already part of NXWM’s Master Drivers scheme

They must also pass an advanced driving test, which gives membership of the Institute of Advanced Motorists, and are rewarded with a lump sum by the operator when they achieve Master Driver status. They also wear a different uniform to their colleagues.

The programme is driving major benefits in standards and morale, says driver Darren Dunbar from Perry Bar depot, who was selected to address YBMN delegates.

“Drivers see the idea as something that makes their efforts worthwhile, and the recognition and reward principles have started to have a real impact. My colleagues want to be considered a Master Driver, and for those who are not, it gives them something to aim for,” says Mr Dunbar.

“The advanced driving test has also reminded us all of the importance of maintaining and developing our skills. We use those skills every day, and now view our responsibilities differently.”

Qualification as a Master Driver also involves time in a classroom and completing coursework. Around 60 of Perry Bar’s establishment of 450 have achieved the standard so far, with others keen to join them.

“The most rewarding part of the project is how it has brought everyone together,” adds Mr Dunbar, who says that the often downbeat mood of an inner-city depot has lifted in many cases thanks to the Master Driver programme.

“Bus driving is a tough job, but if you change your perspective slightly, things look a lot brighter. Some drivers though it was a gimmick, but that view changed when they saw what it involved.”