The UK Coach Operators Association (UKCOA) is expanding its structure following a doubling of membership to 82 within 100 days of its launch.
Peter Bradley, long associated with UKCOA and its predecessor the London Tourist Coach Operators Association (LTCOA), has stepped up from the role of Director of Administration and Development to become Managing Director. Meanwhile, Laura Li will join as UKCOA’s second member of staff later in May. She will take up the position of Membership and Administration Officer.
UKCOA takes steps after strong membership growth
UKCOA says the steps have become necessary after it saw a strong response from the industry to its efforts to promote the coach sector’s cause.
That has led it to establish a crisis support service and to open a channel to legal advice and support.
However, Chair Stephen Telling is keen to stress that UKCOA’s membership growth is not drawn from other trade bodies.
Instead, the work has been accomplished by UKCOA being an association that is run by operators “for the benefit of the coach industry and its clients,” he says. It has an established working relationship with both the Confederation of Passenger Transport and RHA and the three bodies collaborated recently on coach parking at Heathrow Airport.
Mr Bradley adds that while UKCOA was hopeful that membership growth would come quickly, its rapid nature “has taken us by surprise, but we are nonetheless delighted.” Many newcomers are from outside LTCOA’s traditional London-centric base.
PSVAR is most prominent in members’ thoughts
Mr Telling says that several issues are key among members’ concerns. PSVAR is most prominent, but he adds that the topic of future coach powertrains and alternative energy sources is close behind. Matters relating to attracting drivers, and operational and engagement duties, are also high on the agenda.
The latter captures one of UKCOA’s prime policy considerations for the future. Although there has been widespread unhappiness with the UK government’s handling of the coach industry during the pandemic, Vice-Chair Kevin Wilde notes that operators have been able to find a new voice and engage with politicians over that period. It is incumbent on trade bodies to ensure that remains the status quo when workloads return to normal, he says.
The Association is committed to continuing engagement of its own.
Mr Wilde adds that the industry now has a clear platform from which to communicate with the Department for Transport and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to help to ensure that coaches’ ongoing needs are recognised.
Additionally, Mr Bradley says that UKCOA has already met with the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC) to discuss DPTAC’s earlier advice to government regarding PSVAR in coaches. It is also beginning to open engagement with local authorities (LAs) outside London. The latter work will involve lobbying of LAs by UKCOA members.
UKCOA committed to collaboration for industry’s best interests
Despite UKCOA’s aims and expansion, Mr Telling says that it is not in competition with other trade associations. Instead, it is committed to lobbying for the coach industry alongside them to present a unified front. “We are not a political party. We are an industry body trying to do the best for our members,” he adds.
UKCOA remains committed to working with stakeholders to ensure a satisfactory outcome to the situation surrounding PSVAR in coaches. It supports DPTAC’s call for the assembly of a panel involving operators, trade associations, coach OEMs and other bodies. Mr Telling adds that in finding a solution, the government must talk to the coach industry, respect its views and allow a “sensible period” for it to adapt to what is decided.