In a letter to the Swedish Presidency of the EU Council, two major transport organisations have called for the revision of the EU Driving Licence Directive to lower the minimum driving age for professional drivers.
The EU road transport sector is facing an unprecedented and severe driver shortage that is expected to triple by 2026 if no action is taken.
Public and commercial sector operators are acutely aware of this issue. IRU and the European Passenger Transport Operators (EPTO), representing privately owned passenger transport operators, have called upon the incoming Swedish Presidency of the EU Council to ensure that the revised EU Driving Licence Directive sets the minimum driving age for professional bus and coach drivers at 18.
Minimum age for bus and coach drivers is between 21 and 24 in most EU countries, a huge barrier to attracting people after school. Minimum age may also vary within a country, depending on local regulations, exemptions and licence rules. For example, it may vary based on route distance, international versus domestic routes, and the type of certification held by the driver.
IRU Director EU Advocacy Raluca Marian said, “The EU could be missing some 100,000 bus and coach drivers soon. The consequences of such a shortage are frightening. It would hamper essential mobility services and put a big dent in the EU’s CO₂ emissions reduction ambitions, as it would lead to less collective mobility.
“If we are serious about reducing the sector’s carbon and environmental footprint, we need to help people ditch passenger cars for collective transport. But we need more professional drivers to make this happen. Public transport lines are already being discontinued due to a lack of drivers.”
“Using the ongoing revision of the EU Driving Licence Directive to set the minimum age for all professional drivers at 18 is one way of opening up the profession to more young people,” she added.
To structurally address driver shortages, operators need to attract new drivers and reduce the average age of the profession. Only 5% of bus and coach drivers are aged 25 or younger. By removing barriers to access for young people and lowering the minimum driving age, the sector can close the gap from school to wheel and rejuvenate the profession. Such action is expected to double the share of drivers under 25 by 2030.
Financial support from governments is also needed to mitigate licence costs and attract new drivers, including young people, women, qualified foreign drivers and other professionals.
Demand for bus and coach drivers is expected to grow by 20% in the coming years, as total sales from travel agencies, tour operators, reservation services and related activities progressively return to pre-pandemic levels.