Bus Users calls for urgent action to address driver shortage

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In a letter to Grant Shapps MP, Bus Users, which campaigns for inclusive, accessible transport, has called for urgent action to tackle the current critical shortage in bus drivers.

With passenger numbers below pre-Covid levels, Bus USers highlighted that some operators are reducing journeys on higher frequency routes in order to minimise the number of drivers required, which it said is counter to the ethos of the Bus Recovery Grant and to the needs of passengers. In marginal and rural areas where services are already basic, the charity warned that the impact is particularly severe and said that people are now struggling to access work, education, apprenticeships and healthcare.

“We understand that while there is a present shortage of PCV licence holders in the bus industry, there is no shortage of possible new recruits,” the charity said, saying that the problem lies with delays in the system and citing two medium-sized bus operators with 160 new entrant drivers between them currently awaiting driving tests, a a loss of over 6,000 driving hours per week.

The situation has been made worse, it said, by a recent letter sent by the DfT to HGV licence holders encouraging them to get back behind the wheel, and PCV licence-holders were among those targeted, leading to operators now reporting losing drivers to HGV work. Another area of concern expressed by Bus Users is the focus on increasing labour rates in order to attract and retain drivers, which it said conflicts with the aspiration for improved and affordable bus services.

“There are solutions to the current crisis in bus driver numbers but they require urgent, coordinated and determined action. We would call on Government to identify and enable innovative ways to accelerate bus driver recruitment; extend the recruitment campaign for HGV licence holders to the bus industry, and; simplify the outdated, convoluted and bureaucratic route of entry to the industry for new licence holders,” the charity said.