Happy New Year. I have had the most peaceful Christmas since I was a child. Only our service buses were running. No football, no rail replacement and no tours. By Boxing Day, I was bored. Now I’m back in the office not much has changed. It is already a bit like the Groundhog Days of 2020.
Our office staff are flexibly furloughed and the drivers that are here go home between home-to-school duties, as per our 75-page risk assessment. Copies are available to anyone suffering from insomnia.
Coach and bus industry trade bodies: Voice needed post-COVID
But what lies beyond this? The vaccine is rolling out fast. Hopefully by Easter we can see a slow return to normal. Then, the old problems will resurface. They may have been kicked into the long grass, but issues like Euro VI have not gone away.
The pandemic has brought into focus how effective trade bodies like the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) are, and how they have been fighting for the cause of their members. Moving forward, it will be the same people that will need to lobby the government in the post-COVID-19 world.
We are a CPT member. But apart from paying our fee, we are as active as a hibernating squirrel. We use the service mainly to get discounts from suppliers and the occasional look at the Compliance Manual. But I suspect that we will need such organisations more and more as we battle to try and protect our businesses, and hopefully make a profit again.
Conflicting views do not lend themselves to effective trade bodies
The trouble is that I am not sure how the diversity of the coach industry lends itself to having effective trade bodies. Take PSVAR. Large numbers of coach operators did nothing about it. They would love CPT to fight it tooth and nail. Many others invested huge sums of money on complying. They want to see PSVAR enforced. Who can blame them?
Some CPT members wanted the coach industry to be classed as a leisure one to open more access to grants. That terrifies me. I do not want to have to charge VAT on all my hires. It could be the difference between a school trip being viable or not.
Good luck to those bodies that represent us
So what position is CPT to take? It is between a rock and a hard place, it seems. The Road Haulage Association (RHA) is now dipping its toe into the coaching world. I have no strong feelings either way.
But I suspect RHA will have the same problems that CPT faces, and not just the apathy of members like me. In fact, comically, RHA could end up lobbying for completely the opposite things to CPT.
One of the strengths of the coach industry is its diversity, from small, family-run operators to the big groups. In this case, that is also its big problem. We all want different things, depending on how we run our businesses. Good luck to anyone trying to square that circle.