The Managing Director of leading South Wales bus and coach operator Adventure Travel has criticised the DVLA for significant delays in processing vocational driver licence applications and the ability to book bus driving tests, which has resulted in driver shortages and, on occasions, disrupted services.
Adam Keen describes the situation, which has seen the transport operator waiting up to three months for provisional vocational licences for new trainees, as ‘unacceptable’. Mr Keen said:
“The problem is having a detrimental effect on the public transport industry which has worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic, adjusting services to suit passenger numbers and maintaining stringent cleaning practices to ensure safe travel. Now that we are returning to pre-pandemic levels, we are recruiting for a range of driver positions but are struggling to fill them due to the vast backlog at the DVLA. This is at a time when we need drivers the most.”
Mr Keen also reveals a significant lack of available driving test slots, meaning that even when provisional licences have been processed, the trainees sometimes can’t get test dates for many weeks.
Mr Keen continues:
“As a bus operator, we include within our business plan an assumption that we will train a certain number of bus drivers from scratch each month. In order to do so, they need to be swiftly furnished with a provisional vocational driving licence by DVLA, but staggeringly, the backlog of licences waiting to be dealt with goes back as far as May 2021.
“This troublesome bottleneck means that there is now a lack of suitably qualified drivers available. and is ultimately affecting our ability to run our business. Not having access to qualified drivers when we need it the most because of the DVLA’s inadequate provision, means we can’t provide the first-rate service we strive for. We urgently need DVLA to input some resource from elsewhere, just as bus operators have had to do by taking on agency drivers to cover staffing shortages.”