CPT CEO Graham Vidler outlines the trade organisation’s continuing efforts to address the driver shortages affecting the coach and bus sector
Across the economy, in hospitality, in leisure, in retail and, of course, in transport, we are seeing the difficulties of transitioning from what the Prime Minister describes as “low-wage, low-skills, low-productivity economy” to a high-wage, high-skill economy.
The only impact I really care about, though, is the impact on our industry’s ability to get passengers where they need to be. And there has been, with Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) research showing a shortage of at least 4,000 drivers across the industry.
Throughout the sector people are working flat out to minimise disruption and bring more people into our industry. In this context, we have made it crystal clear to the Department for Transport how unhelpful the letter from it and haulage industry representatives to HGV license holders encouraging them to return was for coach and bus operators.
These recruitment challenges are also being made more difficult by delays at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA). CPT has worked with DVLA to secure a reallocation of resource to processing new applications, which has meant that the average processing time has dropped from around eight weeks to under two weeks.
We know some applications are still taking longer though, and we are working through some examples with DVLA to understand why this is happening and making the case for applicants to be able to start their training before the return of their provisional licence or even without one.
We are also working with the Department for Work and Pensions to produce a range of materials to help raise the profile of the coach and bus sector among job centre staff and jobseekers.
There has been a lot of publicity in the last few weeks around the increase in testing capacity at DVSA to aid the HGV sector. CPT’s operations team has been in contact with DVSA on a regular basis and we have been reassured that the coach and bus sector will also benefit from any measures to help the HGV sector.
We will be making sure this commitment is kept and continuing to urge it to speed up testing availability as it is unacceptable to have drivers who are ready to join the workforce waiting, up to two months in some cases, to take their test.
Inevitably, the media has taken an increasing interest in this issue, and you may have seen or heard CPT on local and national media, including BBC Breakfast, speaking for the industry. If you are approached by the media on the issue and would like support from CPT, please get in touch.
I know that it is a challenging time for operators but on this issue and many others CPT is working for you. Please let us know if there is something more we can do to help.