Bus/Coach Driver

The Job and What's Involved

Bus/Coach drivers provide a transport service for passengers making short or long journeys. They are responsible for the care, safety and comfort of their passengers.

A Bus Driver:

  • Drives a bus along a local regular route, pulling in and out again at bus stops, often in heavy traffic, to pick up and set down passengers.
  • Checks that everyone is safe before opening or shutting the doors.
  • Works out the fare for each passenger, deals with money, issues tickets and checks season tickets and passes if there is no conductor.
  • Notifies passengers, on request, when arriving at their stop.
  • Checks that passengers do not stay on the bus past the stop they have paid for.

Some bus drivers ferry passengers on short trips by minibus, for example, from commercial car parks to airports.

A Coach Driver:

  • Drives a coach on longer trips, intercity or even abroad - trips may last hours or days, with breaks in towns or at motorway service stations.
  • Loads and unloads large luggage into the baggage compartment of the coach.
  • Takes fares or checks off names on a passenger list.
  • Learns local laws if driving abroad and, in most other countries, drives on the right.
  • Gives advice and information and, in some cases, a commentary to passengers.
  • Makes sure no one is left behind.
  • Deals with staff in hotels and restaurants at stopovers.
  • May have to clean the coach and its toilet facilities, and restock refreshments.

Both Bus and Coach Drivers:

  • Check their vehicles, working from a safety checklist, to make sure they are in good working order.
  • Pick up and drop off passengers, greeting them politely and answering any queries.
  • Could be involved in providing community transport for school children, the elderly, or people with disabilities.
  • Help disabled passengers - some vehicles have a lift for wheelchairs.
  • Observe passengers inside the bus or coach and deal with any anti-social behaviour.
  • Try to keep to their schedule, arriving at each stop on time.
  • Drive safely and legally.
  • Control the vehicle's heating, lighting and ventilation.
  • Deal with lost property and suspicious packages.
  • Cope with emergencies, such as breakdowns, accidents, illness or aggression.

European Union (EU) laws regulate hours of work, and drivers must have a 45 minute break after driving for four hours and 30 minutes. There is also a 56-hour weekly driving time limit, with a 90-hour maximum over any two weeks.

Most bus/coach drivers work shifts or rotas covering evenings, weekends, and sometimes nights. Some companies are introducing 'family-friendly shifts', with fixed hours on a rota basis. Working hours range from 39 to 45 a week, over five or six days. Part-time opportunities are increasing.

Coach drivers taking tours may be away from home for one or more weeks at a time, and may sometimes go overseas. Work for holiday and excursion coach drivers may be seasonal.

Bus/coach drivers spend most of the day sitting in the cabs of their vehicles. Some cabs are sealed off from the passenger area by security screens. Coach drivers get out of the cab to load and unload luggage, or to help disabled or elderly passengers. Bus drivers normally get out only at official tea or lunch breaks.

Some bus and coach drivers have to wear a uniform, which the company provides.

Trainees working towards the passenger carrying vehicle (PCV) licence may earn around £11,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are around 220,000 people employed in the bus and coach industry and, as drivers are currently an 'ageing workforce', it is predicted that there will be a need to recruit around 30,000 drivers a year over the next few years. Eighty per cent of employment in the bus industry is represented by six main companies - Arriva, First, Go-Ahead, National Express, Stagecoach and Transdev. There are vacancies throughout the UK.

Companies employing drivers may run local bus services, long distance touring coaches, or both. Other companies specialise in short ferrying services for special groups. Those working with vulnerable groups of people must provide evidence that they have no criminal record.

Jobs may be advertised in the local press, in Connexions centres and Jobcentre Plus offices, and on the websites of bus and coach companies.

Education and Training

The essential qualification for driving any kind of bus or coach is the PCV licence. To train for this licence, a full UK driving licence is required.

Trainee drivers usually need to be 18 or over (sometimes 21 or over), with a full, current, clean driving licence and must be in good health. A full medical is part of the recruitment and training process.

Many companies give entrants PCV training while paying them a trainee wage. Individuals who wish to arrange and pay for their own lessons and test can contact the Driving Standards Agency for further details. Application forms are available in local post offices.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

There are no formal entry requirements, although employers may prefer some GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), particularly in English and maths.

Bus/coach drivers can work towards further qualifications while working. Under new EU laws, from September 2008 professional PCV and large goods vehicle (LGV) drivers will have to train for a Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) and do 35 hours of training every five years. There are several NVQ's/SVQ's related to the bus and coach industry, including an NVQ/SVQ Level 2 in Road Passenger Transport.

Operators provide training for new recruits. PCV driver training lasts about four to five weeks and includes a practical and theoretical driving test, as well as a medical examination.

Drivers also receive induction training, which includes operating ticket machines, becoming familiar with the route, customer care, disability awareness, defensive driving and health and safety matters.

Most operators allocate a mentor driver to new drivers, on posting to their garage or depot, to help with settling in problems and learning new routes.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Bus/Coach drivers need:

  • Excellent driving skills and awareness of safety and security.
  • Good communication skills and a clear speaking voice.
  • A polite and approachable manner with passengers.
  • To be calm and have the confidence to work with minimal supervision.
  • Good eyesight and observation skills.
  • Good concentration and the ability to remain alert over long periods.
  • Quick reactions and to be able to cope in all traffic conditions.
  • Be able to complete checklists and other forms.
  • Cash handling skills.
  • Assertiveness for coping with difficult passengers.
  • To be punctual and able to work to timetables.
  • A thorough knowledge of driving laws.
  • To have knowledge of other languages, if driving overseas.

Your Long Term Prospects

After gaining a PCV licence, a driver can drive any bus or coach.

They can progress to become a supervisor, service controller or inspector, manager or driving instructor.

Get Further Information

Confederation of Passenger Transport UK,
DVTA HQ, Balmoral Road, Belfast BT12 6QL
Tel: 028 9068 1831
Website: www.cpt-uk.org

Driver and Vehicle Licensing Northern Ireland,
County Hall, Castlerock Road, Coleraine, Co Londonderry BT51 3TB
Tel: 0845 402 4000
Website: www.nidirect.gov.uk/motoring

Driving Standards Agency, Stanley House,
56 Talbot Street, Nottingham NG1 5GU
Tel: 0115 901 2500
Website: www.dsa.gov.uk

GoSkills, Concorde House, Trinity Park, Solihull, West Midlands B37 7UQ
Tel:0121 635 5520
Website: www.goskills.org

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