Consultation launched on under 20s

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This Acklams coach had one of the company’s young drivers, Ryan Woodling, at the wheel when photographed. LIAM HAIGH

A Government consultation will consider whether restrictions on 18-20 year olds should be lifted

The Government believes that hundreds of jobs in the coach and bus sectors could become available to younger people, under new proposals. It has launched a consultation on lowering the minimum age to drive longer bus and coach journeys and speeding up preliminary training, which it says will help deliver more reliable bus services and a more resilient supply chain.

Roads Minister Guy Opperman launched the consultation on 11 April to remove a restriction which currently means that 18 to 20-year-old coach and bus drivers can only drive routes up to 50km, even though they can already drive an articulated lorry with no distance limit. The Government believes that the plan would mean more coach and bus drivers trained, helping to relieve the driver shortage, and that bus operators would be able to run more services more easily, especially in rural areas where bus routes tend to be longer.

The proposals come on top of further plans for prospective bus, coach and HGV drivers to start theory and off-road training straight away, rather than having to wait to have their provisional licence, meaning they can get started on their training journey as soon as possible.

Roads Minister Guy Opperman said: “Being a bus, coach or lorry driver can be an excellent career for young people and these proposals could help get younger talent into transport, encouraging diversity in the sector. This could be a win-win, not only improving job opportunities for those leaving school, but also going some way to continue to ease driver shortages, delivering more reliable bus and coach services and a more resilient supply chain as part of our plan to grow the economy.”

Industry data suggests the national bus driver shortage to be 6.6% and the coach driver shortage at 13.6%, something which the Government says the measures could help to alleviate.

CPT Chief Executive Graham Vidler said: “We warmly welcome this consultation on two key proposals championed by CPT to address the challenge of driver shortages faced by the coach and bus sector. Allowing new recruits to get on with off-road training while awaiting their provisional licence will ensure more trainees complete the course and become safe, qualified bus or coach drivers. As 18 year-olds are allowed to drive an articulated lorry already, there is a clear case for allowing them also to drive all types of coach and bus services.”

Giving an operator’s perspective, Director of Stanley Travel Andrew Scott said: “As a medium-sized, family-run coach company, we’re always looking to attract younger bus and coach drivers to our sector. We fully welcome these proposals which would remove the entry barriers to the industry, help us run more services to provide customers with greater choice, and open up fantastic careers as a coach driver for young people.”