September 06 2023

CPT has launched a new recruitment and retention handbook, to support bus and coach operators, whose growth is being held back due to driver shortages.

Coach companies are reporting full order books for inter-city and leisure travel, and bus passenger numbers in some areas are increasing up to 15% year on year.

According to CPT research, the vacancy rates in the coach sector are currently12.5%, while for buses it’s 6.5%. This is proving particularly difficult for  operators to meet the popular demand for coach travel which includes holidays, concerts, sport and educational trips.

The expert guidance, created exclusively for CPT members, is aimed at supporting coach and bus operators in the recruitment, training and retention of drivers.

The handbook is split into three sections:

  • Within Recruitment, there is guidance on attracting applicants, potential recruiting partners to source candidates, apprenticeships, interviews, provisional licence applications, DBS checks and ‘onboarding’.
  • The Training section links to the CPT Compliance Manual along with potential funding options, advice on arranging training and tests, and training recommendations.
  • The Retention section covers communications, culture and collaboration, working practices, facilities, staff benefits and discounts, enhancing the role’s rewards, and ongoing training and support.

Keith McNally, Operations Director at the Confederation of Passenger Transport, said: 

“While there have been some signs of improvement in terms of driver numbers, some areas and parts of the industry continue to experience severe challenges. It is imperative we do all we can to ensure that the availability of drivers is not constraining our sector’s ability to reach its full potential.

“That’s why CPT, as the leading trade association for bus and coach, has produced this critical guidance to help support its members as operators seek to grow their services.  It brings together existing guidance with a range of new material, including many excellent examples of good practice provided by members.”

The launch of recruitment and retention handbook is alongside CPT’s ongoing calls on the government to help attract more drivers into the sector.

McNally added:  

“To tackle the driver shortage, CPT is calling on the government to speed up the driver licence application process, so recruits aren’t put off by long waiting times. They can also help attract younger people to drive a coach by removing the 50km regular service driving limit currently placed on 18-19 year-olds.”


Notes to editors:

  • CPT is the leading trade association for the UK’s bus and coach sector, with around 900 members.
  • CPT research from May 2023 based on 209 unfilled coach driver vacancies in 1669, and based on 4315 unfilled bus driver vacancies in 66,242 for bus.
  • The recruitment and retention issues the sector faces are against a backdrop of rising industry costs, including price rises in key materials, such as fuel and tyres, as well as a competitive labour market, forcing the sector to pay more for drivers and engineers.
  • To attract more coach drivers, CPT is calling on the government to:
    • Lift the long-distance driving restrictions for 18-19 year-olds to allow younger coach drivers to transport passengers on trips further than 50km.
    • Allow candidates to undertake off-road driving modules while they wait for their provisional licence, so they’re not deterred from the profession due to long waiting times.
    • Permit accredited in-house operator driving instructors to assist the DVSA in testing applicants.