UK Government Proposes Relaxing Bus Driver Age Restrictions

The UK government has launched a consultation on lowering the minimum age for drivers operating buses and coaches over longer distances.

Currently, people aged between 18 and 20 can only drive buses and coaches on routes up to 50 kilometres long. Consequently, a fully trained 18 to 20-year-old driver cannot operate a coach from London to Manchester or drive a bus on the scenic Coastliner route across the Leeds-York-Yorkshire coast.

This is in spite of the fact that they can drive an articulated lorry with no distance limit.

By proposing to remove this restriction, the government hopes to encourage more young people to get into transport, which will help ease the driver shortage and deliver reliable bus and coach services. In addition, this change would help improve job opportunities for young people.

Proposals could improve job opportunities for people aged 18 to 20, ease driver shortages and provide more reliable bus and coach services across England
Proposals could improve job opportunities for people aged 18 to 20, ease driver shortages and provide more reliable bus and coach services across England

To further access these benefits, the government is also consulting on measures to expedite training for drivers. Its further proposals call for prospective bus, coach and heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers to start theory and off-road training right away, rather than having to wait for their provisional licence.

Roads Minister, Guy Opperman, said:

“Being a bus, coach or lorry driver can be an excellent career for young people and these proposals could help get younger talent into transport, encouraging diversity in the sector.

“This could be a win-win, not only improving job opportunities for those leaving school but also going some way to continue to ease driver shortages, delivering more reliable bus and coach services and a more resilient supply chain as part of our plan to grow the economy.”

Industry data currently estimates the national bus driver shortage to be 6.6 percent and the coach driver shortage at 13.6 percent.

By tackling this shortage, the proposals could help deliver more reliable bus services and a more resilient supply chain. With more bus and coach drivers safely trained to drive on our roads, bus operators could also run more services, especially in rural areas where bus routes tend to be longer.

Graham Vidler, Chief Executive, Confederation of Passenger Transport, said:

“We warmly welcome this consultation on 2 key proposals championed by CPT to 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 complete 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.”

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