Legislation changes will never kill the coach industry

Changes to legislation that are going to kill the coach industry have been around for longer than faulty NOx sensors.

The first I recall was when seatbelts became mandatory. As a handsome young man with a fringe that covered my eyes, I well remember my father worrying that none of his coaches or those of other local operators had them fitted. The end was nigh.

Then one balmy summer, armed with a ratchet, a couple of spanners and boxes full of retractable lap belts, the problem was solved.

Next came the digital tachograph. When the first card arrived, the driver held it in the air. We looked on in wonder, like it had just been taken from Pandora’s box.

No normal human being could operate such a device. Our fleet is now entirely digital with not a dog-eared, incorrectly filled in paper chart in sight. I can check rest days, MPG and distance covered without having to wait 28 days for cards to be handed in.

Legislation changes came with Driver CPC…

Then the Driver CPC (DCPC). That truly was the end. No drivers would sit it, the cost would be extortionate, and it would require a working knowledge of quantum physics to obtain a Driver Qualification Card.

Granted, our earlier courses were rather hit and miss. I’m not sure the three hours we spent learning about forklift trucks was entirely relevant.

Now, I genuinely see the benefit. The courses that we run are appropriate, useful and job related. Should anyone have a cardiac arrest near us, our staff are dab hands at CPR. In total we lost one member of staff who didn’t want to sit the DCPC.

Proper preparation for PSVAR

Now it’s PSVAR that is going to kill us all off. We knew legislation changes were coming, but how many of us truly prepared for it?

Legislation changes
How many operators really prepared for PSVAR?

We work for two local authorities. One is doing absolutely nothing and must be waiting for a court case. The other is changing its mind on a monthly basis. Will DVSA even actively enforce it?

When the rail network grinds to a halt (and, unbelievable as it sounds, that does happen), who will pick up the slack? Because 90% of the coaches that I see doing rail replacement aren’t PSVAR compliant.

If the powers that be do not know, how is a humble coach operator like me supposed to?

To me this time it feels a bit different. It’s not just PSVAR that we must contend with. There are emission control zones too. You can’t just buy 20 ex National Express coaches, because in a couple of years you won’t be able to drive into major cities without attracting a charge.

A decent amount of our turnover comes from doing a school contract in the morning, onto an educational trip and then back in time for the afternoon school run. We may not even be allowed into some cities in coming years, and that approach will surely spread.

My Euro VI touring coaches, beautiful as they are, are not PSVAR compliant. My local service buses are – but I’d have to dig out my old ratchet and install seatbelts. I’m not sure my back is up to all that these days.

Besides, my buses don’t have luggage space, so they would be no good for any of the hundreds of school trips we do to outdoor centres and airports.

Ride out the storm

My PSVAR-compliant Van Hool is a Euro IV. Soon I will be able to do the school run, but not use it to take children on an educational visit to a city centre museum. Complicated.

Is the industry doomed? Of course not. People will always need to get from A to B, and history has shown how resilient to legislation changes the coach industry is. This time, though, I imagine that there will be a few casualties, while many us will be forced to evaluate our own futures and change the way we do business.

If you want to really ruin your coffee, check the values of used coaches that are neither Euro VI nor PSVAR compliant.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. There are plenty of options. A change of government would mean that soon, McDonald’s will be paying £15 per hour and you’ll have free broadband for job hunting – even if it only works four days per week.