Around one in 10 driver jobs are vacant across the coach and bus sector, and I know that a lot of operators have faced difficulties running services due to a shortage of drivers.
This issue has made the headlines in recent months but for many it has been an ongoing concern, and it is why we are looking at ways to get more people into the industry, beginning with the Bus and Coach Driver Recruitment Week.
Running from 21–27 February, the aim of Bus and Coach Driver Recruitment Week is to empower operators with the tools to run their own open days and events at a local level. Operators know their local area better than anyone else and are in the best position to reach people in their community, with supporting resources from the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT).
This campaign builds on previous work we have undertaken to tackle the driver shortage. Last year, following sustained pressure from CPT, provisional vocational licence application waiting times were reduced from eight weeks to two weeks, and we secured improvements to DVSA testing provision so that operators can get new drivers on the road as soon as possible.
An important part of the campaign is challenging the myths around our industry. We all know that coach and bus drivers keep people connected with work, education and essential services, and we must communicate this message when speaking with potential recruits. We need to make them aware that the work is vital, varied and there are opportunities for progression. We must also challenge perceptions of the industry more widely to show that we are ambitious and inclusive, and that people who work with us are part of the solution to some of the most pressing issues facing us today, such as achieving net zero and the levelling-up agenda.
At the UK Bus and Coach Conference we had an insightful session on recruitment, with coach and bus operators sharing their experiences of retaining existing employees and growing their workforces. By sharing examples of best practice and initiatives we can learn lessons from each other, putting us in a stronger position to recruit staff. I have witnessed the strength our industry has when we work together to tackle key issues and this situation is no different, so we must continue having these conversations.
Looking beyond recruitment week, CPT’s Operations Director Keith McNally has been working to secure an open session for operators with the Department for Work and Pensions. This session is an opportunity to make sure that job centres can give operators the support they require to find potential candidates and raise the industry’s profile with jobseekers.
In the meantime, please do let us know if you hold your own events for driver recruitment week. Your feedback will help us shape future campaigns and equip you with the tools to help you succeed.