WHAT DO PEOPLE THINK ABOUT COACH DRIVERS?

WHAT DO PEOPLE THINK ABOUT COACH DRIVERS?

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And What Can We Do To Fix That? 

What is the image the average person conjures up when asked to describe a modern coach driver? Will they depict an overweight bloke with a shirt that is half hanging out of his trousers, the buttons ready to pop? Or, will they describe the consummate professional, who reminds them of an airline pilot?

If your average man (or woman) on the street goes with the first description, it could explain why year on year, coach companies struggle with securing the services of high-quality professional drivers… seeing few new recruits enter the industry.

In truth, this less than sterling image is an unfair perception, as the vast majority of drivers are professional, take great pride in their appearance and that of their coach. After all, we have come a long way since the Duple Dominant days and O licences handed down via “Grandfather Rights”.

However, what if the above slovenly image is still even partially accurate? How do we address the issue and effectively go about changing things?

Considering the great responsibility placed upon the driver for relatively low pay, plus this general lack of respect, it’s clearly an uphill battle to change this perception. However, it is possible if the correct approach is taken to educate the public and potential new recruits as well.

The industry should also take steps to encourage young people’s ambitions to be coach drivers when they “grow up”, as they currently do with airline pilots or train drivers.

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Is this most people’s image of a coach driver? 

 

HOW BEST TO ENGAGE THEM EARLY 

One easy approach would be for coach companies to offer driver presentations at their depots for local schools or groups. This “open day” would be fun and informative to visitors, especially the children, who would get a tour of the coach, its many features and perhaps a ride. To encourage attendance, discounts could be offered for future trips, which in turn would also be a great marketing opportunity.

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Another option would be to arrange a similar presentation at local schools allowing the children to see the vehicles up close. The driver’s presentations would emphasise the professional role of ‘coach drivers’, their many responsibilities, and the interesting places they visit and people they meet.

For instance, the presentation could explain that coach drivers’ responsibilities are similar to those of airline pilots, train drivers, captains of ships etc. Their most important task is to ensure their passengers’ safety and that of the coach.  Drivers are responsible for up to 80+ passengers on board and a coach costing as much as £500k. In this manner, the coach driver’s occupation can be presented as a skilled professional career.

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IMPROVING THE JOB TITLE

Unfortunately, the job titles of “coach driver” or “bus driver” sound very ‘70’s’ and rekindle memories of Reg Varney and “On the Buses”. These images will hardly encourage children to seek this profession. Perhaps the industry should consider more exciting job titles such as ‘coach pilots’, ‘Land Pilots’ or ‘PCV pilots’, as examples?

In addition, in their school setting, children sometimes see coach drivers wearing jeans and tee shirts, and driving old coaches/buses nearing the end of service. The pupils see a less than stellar image of the coach industry and so are not inspired to become a coach driver when they leave education.

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However, things are beginning to change. The new vehicles that are coming into the industry are much more technologically advanced than 10/15 years ago and require skilled operators to drive and manage them. These vehicles have far more safety features and computer controls, which require a high level of training and skill. It is only appropriate to create a new job title to match this new image and level of responsibility.

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TRAINING

Driver training should be revamped as well, covering a greater degree of knowledge. This would include all aspects of the business such as tours to Europe, what to expect there, procedures to follow for certain countries and even simulators, where a driver must deal with specific safety situations.

The entire scope of the coach driver’s training could be more professional and give them the acknowledgement they deserve. This would raise the profile of the job position and ultimately the salary they deserve.

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THE FUTURE

We recognize the industry overall is unable to charge the rates they should be charging for a day hire or coach tour. One reason for this is industry saturation with many operators racing to the bottom of the pile, pushing prices down which in turn pushes wages down.

However, with clients getting used to higher standards of service, they can easily search for companies with great reviews, who are well established.

These higher end companies, with the equipment to match clients’ requirements, will begin to push out the low-end operators who flaunt regulations and safety legislation, and do not reinvest in their business.

This can only be a good thing for the coach companies who provide a safe and legal operation, for the clients who want a greater level of service and also for the coach driver whose salary will increase along with the prestige of the role.

So watch this space for word of future ‘Coach Pilots’ coming to a town near you.

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Why is coach travel better than other forms of transport?

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How many times did you have to stay on the train with people practically sitting in your lap because of a rush-hour? It’s not fun, right? Or all the times that you were in your car and couldn’t even admire the landscape because you had to focus on the road? It’s just not fair – spending all your time feeling uncomfortable and rushed. How about you give traveling by coach a chance? Just think about all the benefits it can provide you with.

Cost-effective

Coach travel is surprisingly cost-effective when compared with other types of travel. Whether travelling as a group for a day-out, hiring a coach for a corporate away-day or using them as part of your event to ferry people to and from it, you will almost certainly be pleasantly surprised if you ask for a quote!

Space

There is no such thing as an over-packed coach. You get a big, comfortable seat on an air-conditioned bus and you can just relax. Maybe even take a nap, if you wish so. With many other travel methods you can end up cramped in a tiny amount of space, while on a coach you can comfortably put down your bags and simply focus on the pleasurable trip you are taking.

Time to admire the view

The views outside the window aren’t just in a corner of your peripheral view while being on a coach. You get to actually experience the world around you, appreciate all the beautiful buildings and nature. The world doesn’t have to always just pass you by, you can have a moment to observe and take in the beauty around you.

Stress-free zone

Picture this – driving in a crowded, busy and noisy city that you’ve never been in before. Did that just make you shudder? It would for most people. It’s not even about having to get used to new unexplored streets. It’s the confusion, tension and sheer effort you have to put into this. Of course, at the end of the day you will find your way through it, but after having to do this so many times before, wouldn’t it just be easier if you were on a coach? A professional driver would have to deal with incomprehensible road signs, while you would get to relax, maybe read a book, or do a cross-word.

Using a coach simply makes sense. You don’t have to deal with huge masses of people, you get to admire the scenery and actually feel relaxed the whole time. It is truly an efficient, relaxing way to get around and should be absolutely experienced by everyone.

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