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  • Gareth Davies

Where have all the Bus Drivers Gone? September 2021

In July the Hereford Times ran a news item that bus services in Hereford were being cut to an emergency timetable as Yeomans Travel faced a driver shortage. The indication was that this was due to drivers having to self isolate as part of the Covid precautions. However a national shortage of both bus and HGV drivers is being caused by other reasons as well. Recent issues of Omnibus Society publications throw some interesting light on this.

Maintaining a good level of staff has always been a problem for bus operators. Turnover of staff is consistently high and the drift between goods vehicle and bus driving has always been in existence. Hauliers are now having to substantially increase wages and this will exacerbate the drift of drivers between the two transport sectors.

The bus industry generally relies on overtime being worked and during the Covid crisis the anomaly was created whereby staff were often earning more on the 80% furlough average than those who were working. In consequence as time went on and more drivers were required there was a reluctance to return. Wages in the HGV sector were increasing rapidly which made a transfer to that sector attractive.

Also training new drivers and putting them through the test was very restricted during the height of the Covid crisis. In addition eastern European drivers going home when Covid started have not returned post Brexit. This would particularly impact on bus companies such as Yeomans who employed quite a number of eastern European drivers at their Hereford and Leominster depots. But perhaps one of the main underlying reasons is that bus driving is not an attractive job. The hours are long and unsocial, split shifts and overtime are common and the wage rate is low. There is not much incentive for young people to enter the bus sector now that work in the hospitality sector is on the increase and here too wage rates are rising.

With the government pushing for improvement in the provision of bus services, the bus sector as an industry has a great deal to think about. Bus companies along with organisations such as the Confederation of Passenger Transport and the Association of Local Bus Managers need to bring the industry into the twenty first century and pay attention to making work in the bus industry a well paid profession.

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