The Managing Director of leading South Wales bus and coach operator Adventure Travel has criticized 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, Managing Director of Adventure Travel, expresses his concerns to Business News Wales here:
Adam, who previously described the situation as “unacceptable” told us:
“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.”
Last month the DVLA warned drivers expecting to renew their licences face a wait of up to 10 weeks or longer if they have a medical condition requiring information from GPs.
This followed reports the agency had 800,000 letters waiting to be opened at their Swansea offices with a further 60,000 arriving each day.
Backlogs have built up because the DVLA has been hit by a series of short strikes over coronavirus safety measures at its Swansea offices.
A DVLA spokesperson said:
“We are aware of the potential impact of processing delays at DVLA on drivers applying for or renewing entitlement to drive larger vehicles.
“We are prioritising HGV provisional licence applications which are being issued in around two weeks, and HGV licence applications which are currently being issued in around four weeks.
“To assist bus and lorry drivers there is an ongoing scheme to issue 1 year licences to drivers aged 45 and over without a D4 if a driver is unable to get a D4 medical examination and has not previously been issued with a 1 year licence under the scheme.
“Where a driver passes their bus or lorry driving test we are able to issue licences within five days of the DVSA notifying us electronically as this service, like all our other online services, has not been impacted by the pandemic and is running as normal and without delay.
“There are delays in processing paper applications due to ongoing industrial action and social distancing requirements, which means that we have fewer staff than usual on site.
“It’s disappointing that the Public and Commercial Services Union is choosing to continue with industrial action and targeting services that have the greatest negative impact on the public and businesses.”