Scotland’s youngest driver

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Cara McGregor joined First Aberdeen as the youngest female driver in Scotland, whilst mum Lisa also works for the firm as a driver trainer

At just 18 years of age, Cara McGregor is amongst the youngest bus drivers in the UK. Jonathan Welch met up with her at the start of a shift to find out how she is getting on after her first few months behind the wheel

In March this year, Cara McGregor became the youngest bus driver in Scotland, passing her PCV test with FIrst Aberdeen at just 18 years old. “I’d thought about it before,” said Cara, “but I didn’t think I’d be able to do it. I only passed my car test a year ago, but my old job didn’t suit me career-wise, and the money wasn’t great. I wanted something with prospects, but that would still leave me a social life.” Having started working in retail at 16, Cara started to find the daily routine becoming boring, with the same things happening day after day. “I started on £3.50 an hour when I was 16; that went up to just over £7 when I turned 18, which is not much. And now that so many people shop online, it could be very quiet. Your day goes really slowly. Now I’m much busier, there’s always something happening. It’s much better, and the money is good too for a young person.”

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It is maybe of little surprise that Cara joined First when you learn that there is something of a family history with the company. “My grandad, Jim Franklin, worked here for about 34 years, my dad was here for 24 years, and my mum has been here now for 12 and a half, and my uncle works in the engineering side,” she explained. Her mum, Lisa, recently became a driver trainer, though wasn’t directly involved in Cara’s training. With such close family ties, she already knew a lot of faces before joining. “Everyone was really welcoming right from the start. When I came for the interview, there were other people waiting too. Mum came with me, and when the staff manager came in, he recognised me, laughed and asked if any of the others had brought their mum with them!”

“She applied online without even telling me,” laughed Lisa, “we’re quite close, it is weird seeing her driving a bus!” First operate a ‘one stop shop’ system for interviews, where candidates have their interview, medical and everything else on one day. “It was a very fast process,” continued Cara, “then once I started it took around two and a half weeks to do my theory, hazard perception, the case studies for the CPC, and my driving test. Thankfully I passed first time. I had Craig for a week, then Richard for a week, they both made me feel really at ease. Then after I passed, I was paired up with a driver to learn my routes. To start with, we only do certain routes, the 3,11, 12, 13, 15 and 19.”

“She’s a natural born driver,” said Driving Instructor Craig Duthie, “she picked up the training really well. I trained Lisa too, it’s strange to see someone I’ve known since she was a child driving a bus!”

News of Cara’s success spread quickly, and she featured in Aberdeen local newspaper the Evening Express as well as on local TV. Speaking to the Evening Express, Operations Director for First Aberdeen, David Phillips, said: “Congratulations to Cara on being the youngest PCV licence holder in service within Scotland. I hope Cara’s story inspires more women to consider a career in the bus industry with First.”

“It’s one of those jobs, it is what you make it,” continued Cara. “People think it’s an easy job, but it’s not as easy as it looks. The training went really quick; it was one milestone after another, theory, driving test, learning routes, carrying passengers, it can be a bit stressful.” Although Cara was quite modest about it herself, Lisa told me that Cara has been a hit with the passengers, and many have commended her on her positive attitude, and with her cheery personality and confidence it’s easy to see why.

I asked Cara what were the best and worst things she’d had to deal with so far: “I’ve not had anything really bad happen. The worst was probably the other day; there was an accident at a busy roundabout, the ambulance and paramedics were parked blocking the road. Cars were squeezing through, but I wasn’t going to chance it. One passenger had a go at me and said I should try, but it’s not worth risking an accident. The company always says, ‘if it’s not safe, don’t do it.’ It meant waiting 10 minutes until they moved, but its better to do that than have an accident, or get in the way of the emergency services when they’re trying to do a job. You just have to explain it to people. There are a lot of good days though, and when passengers are nice that makes your day better. I don’t think there’s one specific thing, just people being nice. Lots of people still ask if I’m old enough to drive. When I was training, I was with an older driver, Graham Scott. Passengers would ask ‘is she old enough?’, and he’d tell them ‘no, she’s my carer!’

“There’s a lot still to take in. For older drivers, it’s easy if there’s a diversion, they’ve done it before and know where to go. For me it’s not obvious. I’m from Aberdeen but I don’t know every road in every part of the city. Especially when you’re still getting used to the different types of buses too. For experienced drivers, all those things are obvious, which way to go, where buttons and switches are, it comes naturally. When you’re new it’s all something to think about. Driving a bus is very different to driving a car, you have to take a lot more notice of what is going on around you, and really plan ahead.”

To see Cara on TV, visit: