Europe’s bus and coach driver shortage widens 54%, grim outlook to 2028

The bus and coach sector’s post-COVID growth has increased demand for drivers and over 80% of operators are facing severe, or very severe, difficulties filling positions. The problem is particularly acute for regional bus, scheduled long distance and tourism coach services.

GENEVA –IRU’s 2023 driver shortage report found that unfilled bus and coach driver positions are on the rise in Europe. It’s forecast to get much worse over the next five years without significant action.

Europe has 105,00 unfilled bus and coach driver positions, 10% of the total
Over 80% of bus and coach operating companies face severe difficulties to fill driver positions
Driver shortages are forecast to more than double in five years, reaching 275,000
Only 3% of drivers are below 25, and just 16% are women

Bus and coach driver shortages are growing in Europe. There are now 105,000 open positions in Europe, 10% of the total professional driver population. This is an increase of 54% since 2022, impacting services for millions of users.

IRU Secretary General Umberto de Pretto said, “Transport operating companies across Europe are struggling to find drivers. Services are already being interrupted due to a lack of drivers.”

“The shortage of bus and coach drivers has increased by 54% since last year, but what is even more concerning is the low rate of young people entering the profession in comparison to the high rate of older drivers retiring,” he added.

Five-year outlook

Bus and coach driver shortages in Europe are forecast to more than double by 2028. Over 1.2 million bus and coach drivers are set to retire in the next five to ten years, while the rate of newcomers is significantly lower. Without action to attract and retain drivers, Europe could have more than 275,000 unfilled bus and coach driver positions by 2028.

Persisting demographic gap

Only 16% of bus and coach drivers are women, below both the overall transport industry (22%) and working population (46%) average. The profession also has an ageing population. Less than 3% of bus and coach drivers in Europe are below 25 years old, while more than 40% are over 55.

“The bus and coach driver profession offers an opportunity to reduce youth unemployment while increasing the number of essential workers. Governments and the industry must work together to defuse this demographic timebomb,” said Umberto de Pretto.

Easing access to the profession

In many European countries, the minimum driving age for passenger transport is between 21 and 24. The “school-to-wheel” gap is a key barrier to attracting new drivers. The minimum driving age should be lowered in individual countries without accompanying distance restrictions such as the 50km limit.

Becoming a driver is also expensive due to high licence, training and insurance costs. For example, in Germany, it costs EUR 9,000, on average, to obtain a licence, over four times the minimum monthly wage. “Entry into a profession that is an essential service for millions of European citizens should be facilitated by regulators, not blocked,” said Umberto de Pretto.

Third-country drivers

Europe has an ageing population, with a labour pool that may not be sufficient to cover the driver gap. Countries with a surplus of professional drivers could also help cover the gap. Currently, only 5% of bus and coach drivers in the EU are non-EU nationals. The access of qualified third-country drivers to the profession in Europe should be facilitated.


Driver Shortage Report 2023 Passenger – Europe – Executive summary

Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.

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