As many as 1,000 more bus drivers are currently needed in Denmark to fill vacancies behind the wheels of municipal buses (such as those used to transport patients to health care facilities) and school buses, broadcaster DR reports.
If more drivers are not soon found, the shortage will soon impact city buses and regional transport, according to sector interest organisation Dansk Persontransport.
The opposition Liberal party has recommended that the minimum age for driving buses with passengers under Danish traffic laws be reduced to 19 years as one way of addressing the shortage. The current minimum age is 21 or 24 years, depending on the type of transport.
“It’s going to be very expensive if public transport ends up suffering because of this,” Liberal party spokesperson Kristian Pihl Lorentzen said to DR.
“We should therefore first and foremost make sure that more young people want to become bus drivers. That’s why we suggest reducing the age limit for when you can drive a bus,” he added.
Specifically, current rules require drivers to be at least 24 years old for vehicles with passengers for journeys over 50 kilometres; and 21 years for journeys under 50 kilometres.
The Liberals have called for bus driver training to begin at the age of 18, using training partnerships with experienced drivers. Once they reach the age of 19, the trainees can take over as drivers, according to the Liberal proposal.
Dansk Persontransport told DR it backed the idea.
Many drivers changed jobs as a result of the coronavirus crisis, resulting in the current shortage, according to the organisation.
Minister of Transport Benny Engelbrecht recognised the shortage in drivers but said a lower age limit for drivers is not a solution he supports.
“I don’t think it’s the right way to go to reduce age limits. My sense is that this would have a negative effect on the feeling of security experienced by passengers,” Engelbrecht told DR.
“People should feel comfortable taking the bus and my impression is that this wouldn’t be the case if we allow very young people to drive buses,” he added.
Instead, the minister said efforts should be made to encourage older drivers to stay in the sector. He also said that women with immigrant heritage, who are a demographic with a lower employment rate than the national average, could help to meet demand.
A project at Aarhus language school UC Plus was already working to this end, the minister told DR.
The broadcaster writes that political discussion of the issue is slated for early next year.