Proposals could improve job opportunities for people aged 18 to 20, ease driver shortages and provide more reliable bus and coach services across England.

  • hundreds of jobs in bus and coach sectors could become available to younger people under new proposals
  • consultation on lowering the minimum age to drive longer bus and coach journeys and speed up training for drivers launches today
  • measures will help deliver more reliable bus services and a more resilient supply chain as part of our plan to help grow the economy

Young people could soon find more careers in transport, following government proposals to lower the minimum age requirements for bus and coach drivers and speed up training for bus, coach and lorry drivers.

Today (11 April 2024), Roads Minister Guy Opperman has launched a consultation to remove a restriction that currently states that 18 to 20-year-old bus and coach drivers can only drive routes up to 50km.

While they can already drive an articulated lorry with no distance limit, currently a fully trained 18 to 20-year-old driver can’t operate a coach from London to Manchester, or the scenic Coastliner bus route across Leeds-York-Yorkshire coast, due to the 50km restriction. These proposals are looking to change that.

With more bus and coach drivers safely trained to drive on our roads, bus operators could be able to run more services, especially in rural areas where bus routes tend to be longer.

This will bring more reliable services and help passengers travel with confidence.

This comes on top of further proposals for prospective bus, coach and heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers to start theory and off-road training right away, rather than having to wait to have their provisional licence, meaning they can get started on their training journey immediately.

More qualified lorry drivers will support a stronger haulage sector, helping ensure medical supplies reach hospitals, parcels are delivered on time and supermarket shelves are always stocked.

If the proposals are introduced, all prospective bus, coach and HGV drivers will be held to the same training requirements as before to ensure Britain’s roads remain among the safest in the world, which will mean drivers can complete training and get working more quickly.

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.

With industry data estimating the national bus driver shortage to be 6.6% and the coach driver shortage at 13.6%, the measures could open up a brilliant career in transport for younger people, tackle driver shortages and help improve the reliability of bus and coach services, growing the economy to deliver a brighter future for all.

Graham Vidler, Chief Executive, Confederation of Passenger Transport, said:

We warmly welcome this consultation on 2 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.

In particular, the proposals could help family-run British businesses like Stanley Travel recruit more drivers, providing more services and greater choice for local travellers.

Andrew Scott, Director of Stanley Travel, 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.

The consultation comes only a few weeks after local councils in England have been allocated £143 million to roll out almost a thousand zero-emission buses and deliver cleaner, smoother and better bus journeys for all.

The department has also invested over £3.5 billion since 2020 to protect and improve bus services, in addition to £1 billion to improve bus services in the North and the Midlands and extend the £2 bus fare cap to the end of this year, both thanks to reallocated HS2 funding.

Lorry drivers are already benefitting from better working conditions following a total of £31 million in joint government and industry investment to improve truckstops up and down the country by delivering better rest areas, improved welfare facilities and more secure lorry parking.

Declan Pang, Road Haulage Association (RHA) Director of Public Affairs and Policy, England, said:

We have long supported proposals to attract younger people into the role and address the ageing coach driver workforce, which is a barrier to the sector’s growth. 

The age restrictions have constrained the sector’s ability to attract young people and, considering someone can drive an HGV from 18 years old, puts the coach sector at a disadvantage.

These proposals could improve prospects for coach operators and we look forward to seeing them implemented.

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Published 11 April 2024