There is a 21.4% gap between the need for drivers to help the industry recover and the number of drivers employed, according to survey of the private motorcoach industry conducted by the American Bus Association Foundation.
“As the industry continues to climb its way back from the devastation that the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked, the lack of drivers to help make trips happen is a major setback,” said Peter Pantuso, president of the ABA Foundation. “People want to travel again. Our members want to take them on trips and yet so many buses are sitting idle in the yards because companies don’t have enough drivers to fulfill the travel needs.”
The survey, conducted by John Dunham & Associates, was sent to American Bus Association (ABA) membership to better understand issues related to worker and diesel fuel shortages. Based on the survey results, members reported a shortage of as many as 7,300 drivers — a staggering figure considering there are only 26,800 bus drivers employed by the private, non-institutional sector, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The survey found the shortage of qualified motorcoach drivers is not only sizable, but it is the result of a number of factors, many of which are out of the hands of operators. Based on the survey, weighted by the need for drivers, 47.4% of respondents suggested the major reasons for the shortfall were attributed to availability of training, delays in licensing, insurance issues, fears surrounding COVID-19, and the general labor force shortage.
About 36.5% of respondents specifically stated things like low wages, work schedules, and competition from trucking companies and other operators were the main causes of the shortfall.
Based on these responses, the report found it will take a multi-factored approach to reduce the driver shortfall, which may include making licenses and training more accessible, as well as reducing insurance regulations. In addition, the survey found providing education on the quality of motorcoach driver jobs might influence more people to consider driving as a career. Smaller companies, in particular, suggested a major reason for the shortfall is there is a general lack of interest on the part of the labor force to take up driving as a career.
Finally, the report found that companies themselves have to recognize in a tight labor market workers will demand higher wages and better working conditions. Making motorcoach driving a more rewarding occupation would surely help to alleviate part of the driver shortage.
“Companies will have to recognize that it will take a multi-factor approach to attract new drivers into the industry,” Pantuso said. “ABA’s Women in Buses Council created Driving Force to help operators tackle this issue by providing tips and tools to recruit and retain our most valuable asset: drivers. Companies will have to raise wages and create more rewarding working environments to alleviate this issue.”
With soaring diesel prices that have hit an average of $4.60 a gallon, John Dunham & Associates asked ABA members if the high prices were associated with diesel fuel shortages. Generally, prices for normal goods increase if supply falls and demand stays stable, so the ABA wanted to know if the price increases were a reflection of overall shortages of diesel in the market.
Based on the survey, this was not the case, as only 1.8% of respondents reported shortfalls, with about 96% reporting they had access to enough diesel fuel.