Delays in the processing of vocational driving licence applications by DVLA are turning urgently needed new staff away from the industry, one operator says.
Adam Keen, Managing Director of Cardiff-based Adventure Travel, aired his frustration in August as one recruit waited for an application that was made on 29 May to be processed. Mr Keen says that the ComfortDelGro subsidiary has lost other recruits who have been forced to abandon their plans and look for employment elsewhere.
“They had left their previous jobs but cannot afford to wait indefinitely for their licences to be processed before they start work with us,” he adds. “Were it not for these delays, those people would now be fully trained, productive drivers. Instead, the industry has lost them.”
Delays at DVLA are not consistent, says operator
DVLA says that as of 9 August, it was processing applications for vocational licences that were received on 21 June. Mr Keen has questioned whether they are being handled in date order. He says that one new starter with Adventure Travel recently saw their licence returned after applying for it in July.
Excluding drivers that are self-isolating, Adventure Travel is 41 under establishment. That represents around 15% of its headcount. It has begun to source agency staff, but Mr Keen says that such a route is not without difficulty and that it is expensive.
He adds that the number of staff leaving the sector has increased recently, with rising rates of pay for driving vans being a factor in that. Mr Keen believes that coach and bus drivers’ wages will need to do the same, noting that one coach operator recently uplifted its rates by 8.5%.
Difficulties not likely to recede soon
Adventure Travel is now working to source sufficient agency drivers to enable home-to-school duties to be covered from September. Those temporary staff will start in mid- to late-August to enable them to be trained.
Mr Keen adds that the need for them is not likely to recede in the short term. Even if DVLA can reduce the processing time for licence applications, the period then needed to turn newcomers to the industry into productive drivers means that the problem cannot be solved easily.
DVLA blames the delays on reduced staffing at its Swansea offices due to social distancing and ongoing industrial action by the Public and Commercial Services Union.