Bus and coach services occupy a vital role in society. In the EU, they’re the most used mode of collective transport. Given the current shortage of drivers, you would think that everything possible would be done to attract more drivers.
The passenger industry relies on dedicated, professional and skilled drivers. Whether it’s to drive professional football players to their games, tourists to their destinations or commuters to school or work every day, more drivers are needed. Something Europe – as well as other regions – currently lacks.
The sector has an ageing population that is much older than the working population. Over a quarter of drivers in Europe will retire in less than five years. Meanwhile, the rate of replacement is much lower, putting operators in a desperate situation to attract new drivers.
Demand for drivers is also on the rise, which is adding to the existing shortage.
If the situation persists, the sector will also seriously hamper its ability to advance the transition from private vehicles to collective modes of transport and meet decarbonisation objectives.
Transport operators and national associations are implementing solutions to improve access to the bus and coach driver profession.
In France, Transdev has launched an academy to recruit and train future drivers with 4-to-6-week courses. Transdev funds the whole comprehensive training programme, which results in trainees obtaining a nationally recognised licence.
In the UK, National Express’s Driver Training Academy offers recruits the opportunity to gain their PCV licence along with their CPC training, or to complete refresher training courses. Upon the successful completion of the PCV licence or refresher course, all new recruits are offered a full-time position as a professional coach driver with National Express Transport Solutions.
Others are creating flexible training courses. For example, UCplus is a Danish driving education programme that accepts individuals who are not fluent in Danish. Students who follow the programme learn Danish and acquire the skills needed to become professional drivers.
Governments also need to step in and remove barriers to entry. One of them is age. The minimum driving age needs to be set at 18 and harmonised regionally.
Another barrier is licence costs. In many countries, it costs much more than one month’s worth of minimum gross salary to obtain a licence. Governments need to contribute to licence and training costs for new drivers to help alleviate the driver shortage.
On average, it costs EUR 4,620 to become a licenced passenger driver in major European countries. (Average based on Denmark, Germany, Poland, Romania, Spain and Sweden.)
Our latest report on the passenger sector forecasts that Europe could have a very serious shortage of bus and coach drivers in the coming years: as much as 50% of total positions could be unfilled in 2026, if no action is taken. Europe has an ageing professional driver population, with 30% of drivers who are currently above 55 retiring by 2026, while only 2% are below 25 years of age.