Entering into force last month, a new Spanish law reduces the minimum age for driving commercial heavy goods vehicles to 18 and for passenger transport vehicles in international transport to 21, with the possibility for it to be reduced to 18 in the future.
This has been a long-standing demand from the road transport industry to the Spanish Government. With the youth unemployment rate standing at over 40% in the country, reducing the minimum age will open up new job opportunities for out of work young people.
We asked the heads of several Spanish IRU members for their views.
What will be the key changes for the sector?
Ramón Valdivia, Director General of ASTIC, the Spanish International Road Transport Association:
We have always considered the three-year gap (and five in the case of passenger transport) between the age at which young people can complete high school education, which is 18, and the minimum age to have a truck driver’s licence, which was 21, to be a serious obstacle to young people joining the profession.
The shortage of young professional drivers in our country is acute, while the youth unemployment rate exceeds 40%. It is too early to anticipate how big the impact of this change in regulation will be, but it definitely has the potential to attract a new generation of younger drivers to the profession.
Francisco Iglesias Campos, CEO of ALSA, the leading coach operator in Spain:
The new law is a positive step. It will allow young people to become drivers and help Spanish companies fill vacant roles.
But there are other barriers that need to be removed in order to make this happen. The high cost of obtaining a professional licence, which is only possible at private schools, is an obstacle.
On the other hand, young drivers are sometimes perceived to be too immature for the serious responsibility of driving a coach. This needs to change. We need to convey the message that the training systems are robust and ensure safety. Data shows that road safety is not a matter of age.
What’s the next important step to make this work?
Rafael Barbadillo, President of CONFEBUS, the Spanish Confederation of Transport by Bus & Coach:
The passenger road transport sector is fundamental to our economy and society, as it drives growth and creates jobs. While the new reform will contribute to bringing young people closer to the profession, we must also work to ensure that this measure allows us to develop vocational training programmes with professional certifications that are adapted to the realities of the industry.
Francisco Iglesias Campos, CEO of ALSA:
The first step would be to raise public awareness of the advantages and employment opportunities in professional driving and the importance of the sector to wider business networks.
Another key step is to link the process of obtaining a driver’s licence to the regulated education system. Funding should be provided for training. The education authorities should also authorise training in private centres, which have the expertise and staff to conduct practical driver training.
Ovidio de la Roza, President of CETM, the Spanish Confederation of Goods Transport by Road:
Vocational training is something CETM has also been working on. In light of this new policy, we will redouble our efforts in two areas: ensuring that training responds to transport companies’ actual needs; and attracting young people to the profession, in an effort to reduce the driver shortage in our country.
Ramón Valdivia, Director General of ASTIC:
Access to the profession is, of course, not the only cause of driver shortages. Another important factor is the general lack of safe and secure parking areas and rest areas.
Our drivers deserve to be treated with dignity, so the next logical steps when it comes to regulating the access to the profession are related to building appropriate infrastructure and ensuring safety.
Do you think the new legislation will close the gap between school and the wheel?
Ovidio de la Roza, President of CETM:
Lowering the minimum age will help to attract many more young people to the profession. Spanish companies already offer dual training and learning programmes, which aim to connect education and employment. We are going to explore those and find the best ways to make the existing gap in the road transport industry disappear.
Rafael Barbadillo, President of CONFEBUS:
The recent and significant technological advances in professional road transport force us to make urgent structural changes to adapt the profile, training, skills and responsibilities of our drivers.
The funds allocated by the EU for economic recovery from the impact of COVID 19, together with regulatory changes such as the one that Spain has adopted, should present an opportunity to develop precise human resource development plans for sustainable recovery and the modernisation of commercial road transport.
Francisco Iglesias Campos, CEO of ALSA:
Public knowledge about the drivers’ profession is lacking, so we cannot be sure that closing the gap between school and the wheel would lead to an immediate increased interest in the profession.
We need to ensure alignment between the government institutions involved and the road transport industry. A lower minimum age makes it easier to link training to the available job opportunities, but the whole system needs to be improved.
A regulatory framework linking training to the profession would open the door to young people who may not have previously considered it as an option. We are dedicated to facilitating access for all, including women.