Dutch transit companies concerned about looming bus driver shortage

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A serious shortage of bus drivers is looming just over the horizon, NOS reports after speaking to the Dutch public transit companies. Some companies even doubt whether they will be able to keep all their bus lines running in the near future.

Late in 2014 the bus operators and government came to a number of agreements aimed at preventing a shortage. The government and companies pushed 20 million euros in creating more learning positions for bus drivers, as well as extra training to keep them deployable. The government also agreed to lower the minimum age for a bus driver's license from 21 years to 18 years. That is expected to take effect this year.

But these measures are not enough. The public transit companies expect a major deficit, as many bus drivers will be retiring soon. Over the next 10 years between 40 and 50 percent of bus drivers working for Connexxion and Arriva will retire. That means that these two companies will need to hire and train between 3,800 and 4.750 new bus drivers in the foreseeable future.

"Those are huge numbers. Especially if you consider that we need 10 to 15 applicants for one good candidate", Connexxion personnel manager Colin Breel said to NOS. Connexxion fears that travelers will soon start feeling this shortage. It may be necessary to shut down some bus lines as soon as next year. 

According to Arriva, it is very difficult to find new drivers in Zuid-Holland and the south of the Netherlands. If nothing changes, the company doesn't expect to be able to keep the service up to standard.

GVB in Amsterdam also called it a "big challenge" to find enough staff for the coming years. Syntus already started noticing the effects of its aging work force and expects bigger problems in the coming years.

Only RET in Rotterdam isn't too worried. The average age of employees at the company is relatively lower. 

According to the carriers, one of the main problems is that young people aren't interested in becoming bus drivers. The transit companies are researching what young people find important and will adjust their recruitment to be more attractive to this group, according to NOS. For example, Arriva and Connexxion are both considering giving staff more flexibility in their rosters.