April 11 2024

Speaking at the launch of the consultation in Carlisle alongside CPT members Stagecoach and Stanley Travel, Graham Vidler, Chief Executive, Confederation of Passenger Transport said,

“We warmly welcome this consultation on two key proposals championed by CPT to help 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 stay 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.”

CPT considers these changes a welcome step forward because it believes well-trained drivers in this age group can safely drive a wider range of passenger carrying services and longer services.

Both proposals and the consultation are the direct consequence of CPT’s lobbying and engagement, which followed from a discussion held during the CPT / DfT Driver Shortage Summit in November 2022.  

“This consultation is a great example of industry and government working together effectively” added Graham Vidler.

The proposed changes will help the sector get more bus and coach drivers safely trained, and open up the transport sector to younger people, increasing job opportunities and helping grow the economy while tackling driver shortages that can undermine the provision of services.  

CPT would also like to see the proposals go further since it believes younger drivers should be able to drive non-regular services too.


Notes for Editors

DfT's Consultation on The Amendments to Licensing Restrictions: Bus, Coach and Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) is live from noon Thursday 11 April 2024.

CPT will consult with its members and respond on the detail of the consultation in due course.

In order to acquire a bus and coach driving (Category D) driving licence, candidates need to pass off road elements – theory & hazard perception tests, case studies, off-road manoeuvres and a ‘show me, tell me’ practical test, as well as the on-road driving test.  Many bus and coach operators would like to be able take new recruits through the off-road stages whilst the provisional licence is being processed in order to save time and to help ensure able candidates aren’t lost to other sectors that can offer them an immediate start. While this create a risk that an operator/driver could invest time and money in undertaking these other modules, only to have their provisional licence application refused, many are happy to take this risk.

At present 18 & 19 year old drivers are limited to regular services up to 50 kilometres in length.  This means that they cannot undertake scheduled services longer than 50 kilometres, private hire work, excursions, or tours. These restrictions make no sense to CPT and its members, given that an 18-year-old can drive an oil tanker, car transporter or a 44-tonne articulated lorry the length of the country and into a busy urban area, surrounded by pedestrians.  They also make it more difficult to attract young people into a career as a coach driver after education because of the lack of variety in the work on offer.  

CPT will provide evidence in its response to this consultation around the safety of young fully trained vocational drivers.

CPT understands there may be some legal complexities in allowing 18 & 19 year old coach & bus drivers to undertake trips that aren’t defined as ‘regular’ in legislation.  It will work with the Government to try to resolve these and help the industry recruit mature and enthusiastic young people for the full range of passenger driving roles. 

Bus & coach operators have adopted a range of initiatives to address driver shortages over the last two years including significant investment in their workforces,  improved working conditions & training. CPT's manifesto for bus Driving Britain Forward also suggests the next government must support an industry-led workforce strategy for the bus and coach sector. 

CPT publishes a comprehensive best practice guide to recruitment & retention within the Compliance Manual available to all of its members.

CPT collects detailed data on driver shortages for Government. In the latest survey (January 2024) shortages were are at their lowest level since September 2021: 4.5% for bus, and 9.6% for coach. With considerable pent up demand for expanded service provision it remains important the sector trains a steady stream of new recruits to support future growth whilst also tackling other issues that affect the sector's ability to recruit and retain staff.