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 (managed by DVSA) , which has resulted in driver shortages and, on occasions, disrupted services.
Paper applications for lorry and bus drivers may face longer delays if they are more complex transactions, for example if medical investigations are needed as part of a driving licence application.
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.”
DVLA were keen to stress they are working to resolve the delays, which they said were due to social distancing requirements and ongoing industrial action. They have recently introduced a new online service for bus and lorry drivers to apply and pay for their tachograph cards online in minutes with a new tachograph card being issued within 24 hours of applying.
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 licence applications and HGV provisional licence applications and these 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. Paper applications for lorry and bus drivers are taking on average six weeks to process.
“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.
The spokesman continued:
“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.”
For further information please visit https://www.gov.uk/guidance/dvla-coronavirus-covid-19-update.