Bus companies are reporting a severe shortage of staff as workers leave the country in droves for better-paid HGV positions.

The Confederation of Passenger Transport UK, which represents National Express and Stagecoach, estimates there are more than 4,000 vacancies for bus and coach drivers at present.

Bus drivers earn £32,500 on average, but can now be paid up to £78,000 to driver lorries instead.

The mass exodus has affected services in Derby, Stockton-on-Tees and Nottingham, as well as routes in Scotland, South West and North East.

Operators blame road haulage bosses, and claim that they need 4,000 more drivers to keep the industry going. 

It comes as a shortage of lorry drivers left Britain in turmoil as delivery rates plummeted leading to major disruption leading to stock shortages in supermarkets, chaos at abattoirs and trouble accessing goods from abroad. 

Bobby Morton, Unite’s national officer for passenger transportation, said to Sky News that the sudden shortage of drivers was due to the continuing shortage of lorry drivers working in the haulage sector.

He said that lorry drivers often share many of the same characteristics as bus drivers: long hours, fatigue, lack of basic facilities, such as toilet facilities or washing facilities.

Bus firms are reporting crippling staff shortages as workers across the country quit 'in droves' for better-paid HGV roles (stock image)

Bus companies are reporting a severe shortage of staff as workers leave the country in droves for better-paid HGV positions (stock image).

The Confederation of Passenger Transport UK, which represents National Express and Stagecoach, estimates there are more than 4,000 vacancies for bus and coach drivers at present (stock image)

The Confederation of Passenger Transport UK represents National Express and Stagecoach. It estimates that there are more than 4000 vacancies for bus and coach driver (stock image).

“And the mindset that bus drivers have at the moment is that in the haulage industry the employers threw cash at the problem, at scarcity.

‘So the mindset is now, if we’ve got to work in these Victorian conditions, then we might as well get £20 an hour driving the lorry, as opposed to £10 an hour driving a bus. So bus drivers are leaving in large numbers to move to other industries.

Sky News was told by a spokesperson from CPT that operators have plans for recruitment. We are also in talks with the government and its agencies in order to streamline and improve the recruitment and training process.

“What we need to see now is the removal of the requirement that a provisional licence be issued to start training and the DVSA to not prioritise testing HGVs to fix the shortfall in this sector at the expense bus and coach.

Nearly one million letters were sent across the UK asking HGV licence-holders who are leaving the industry to return. The recruitment drive also targets bus drivers.

This has led to driver shortages in certain areas of the country, including the south of England, Bristol, and the north east of England.

Bosses at First West of England claim the problems are ‘unlike any other UK transport industry has faced’ and blame a combination of poaching, Covid and Brexit for the shortages.

Boris Johnson standing on the back of a London bus during an unveiling in London in 2012

Boris Johnson stands on the back of a London Bus during an unveiling in London, 2012

In an aerial view, lorry cabs are lined up in a holding facility on September 9, 2021 in Dover

Aerial view shows lorry cabs lined up in a holding area on September 9, 2021 in Dover

Some services in Scotland have been reduced from half an hourly to an hourly basis. First claims it is 17% short of the drivers it needs to provide full service in the area.

West Yorkshire bosses claim they are 10% short of the required workforce.  

The DVLA stated that bus and lorry drivers who are renewing their licenses can drive in most cases while their application is processed.

A spokesperson for DVLA said that there were no delays in the bus and HGV provisional licensure applications. They are being issued in approximately five days. We prioritise these applications and are looking at ways to speed it up.

It comes after the bosses of the haulage, recruitment, and food sectors warned ministers in the Government’s Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee about the UK’s lorry driver shortage. This could take approximately a year to recover.

The ONS released Tuesday’s figures showing that driver numbers fell by 53,000 over four years. This is largely due to the fact that retiring drivers are not being replaced as quickly by new recruits. 

Jeff Counsell, managing director of Trentbarton, told Sky News: ‘At the moment, the transport and logistics sector are literally throwing money at drivers to plug their shortfalls. 

“The difference is that they can pass that expense on to the consumer – we cannot readily pass that cost along. For the past 18 months, we have not been allowed increase fares. 

We haven’t made a profit in the past 18 months due to a government subsidy. We are unable to compete with the logistics and delivery sector at this point in time.

‘Other cost pressures are also going up – so fuel, for example, is costing us £100,000 more so far in 2021 than it did in 2020 because the price of fuel is escalating.’