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Government Shifts Gears: Law to Allow 18-Year-Olds to Drive Buses

The government has announced that it is changing the law to allow 18-year-olds to drive buses and coaches in the UK. The move comes after lobbying from the industry to help reduce the significant driver shortage that has been affecting bus reliability. A recent report from the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) showed that a staggering 95% of bus companies admitted that they were experiencing a driver shortage”.

The government will be relaxing the regulations to allow 18-year-olds to complete the theory before they can apply for their provisional license, as well as start off-road driver training, thus speeding up the process. At present, 18-year-olds can get a PCV license, but they are limited to driving on routes that are no longer than 50 km, or 31 miles. This rules out jobs on intercity coach and bus services. This change will remove any restrictions and allow greater engagement for younger people to apply for jobs as bus and coach drivers.

At present, 18-year-olds are already allowed to drive articulated lorries within the HGV sector, which also struggles with driver shortage problems but not as severely as the bus and coach sector. The pandemic also highlighted problems with driver shortage in fuel deliveries across the UK, resulting in long queues at UK service stations and panic buying from some motorists. There is a significant problem with the demographics of the driver shortage, as the bus and coach driver population struggles with an aging pool of drivers.

In the past, a significant challenge for the bus and coach sector has been deterring young people attracted to becoming drivers, as they must wait until they reach the age of 21. This isolates and discourages young drivers from joining the industry. Therefore, this measure is designed to encourage them to join an industry that offers daily working variety as well as attractive salaries and benefits, along with the security of a job for life. Clearly, this presents a potentially attractive career for young people looking to earn decent money, who are not interested in going to university or starting an apprenticeship.

The new ruling comes at a time when the Labour Party announced plans to bring more companies back into public ownership, through bus franchising, thus ending what it called the “postcode lottery” of privately owned bus companies selecting routes they wish to operate and charging whatever fare they decide. They claim that this will create a further 250 million new passenger journeys, which will require many more drivers to operate the services.


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