Plans for the modernisation of bus performance monitoring will be taken forward by the Traffic Commissioners (TCs) as part of objectives for 2021-23, their annual report for 2020-21 discloses.
That work will involve engaging with the industry and other stakeholders and promoting updated statutory guidance. Perhaps most notably, the TCs will explore how the Department for Transport Bus Open Data Service (BODS) can support the delivery of improved performance, they say.
“[BODS] will make available more data than ever before on an operator’s performance. This will create an opportunity for the TCs to modernise how we measure performance to reflect the way that the public actually uses different modes of transport,” the report states.
Bus performance monitoring review planned previously
The TCs had previously intended to review the methods used to measure bus service performance, but that work was interrupted by COVID-19. During 2020-21, TCs’ offices processed 21,717 local bus service registrations as timetables varied frequently, with a short-notice dispensation introduced as part of measures to support the sector.
In her comments as TC for Scotland, Claire Gilmore highlights that administering those temporary variations brought “considerable additional pressure” to her office over the course of the period in question. Ms Gilmore notes that the pandemic “has highlighted the need for modernisation of current arrangements.”
Driver shortage examined in TCs’ annual report
Other areas of relevance to the coach and bus sector discussed in the TCs’ annual report include the driver shortage. They note that while new drivers are required by the industries that they regulate, those staff members need to be mentored by “competent and experienced drivers who can act as exemplars.”
In a pointed comment, the TCs continue by saying that the current driver demographic “presents a real risk” to operators.
While businesses and Transport Managers may be “tempted to engage drivers who fail to live up to even the basic standards, it must be understood that whatever the commercial expediency, safety standards must be retained and that the ability to manage an operator’s licence will be put in jeopardy if they fail to ensure compliance from their drivers.”
Mix of in-person and virtual hearings going forward
The TCs’ report also discloses that hearings before them or their staff will likely be a “targeted mix” of both in-person and virtual sessions going forwards. While the already-articulated difficulties that have been experienced with some virtual hearings are highlighted in the annual report, the TCs says that they have learned lessons from the experience gained from them.
However, that work has also demonstrated the value of in-person hearings for more complex cases. Additionally, the TCs will continue to accept online training courses where that method of delivery is appropriate and has been found to be effective.