Have you ever wondered what a coach holiday driver does?
Over the years I have worked with more than 100 coach drivers, all over the world. Let’s start with what the role of a coach driver actually is.
What Is the Role of a Coach Driver?
The coach driver is responsible for driving the coach in accordance with the driving time rules and regulations. These stipulate how much driving can be done in a day and how often breaks must be taken. The coach driver is also responsible for keeping the coach clean inside and out, and filling it with fuel. A coach holiday driver can work alone or with a Tour Manager to deliver a coach holiday experience as the holiday brochure and contract.
Read on to learn much more about the role of a coach holiday driver in particular, including duties, responsibilities and driving regulations.
There’s a bit more to it than just driving!
1. Coach Holiday Driver – The Driving Bit
Okay let’s start with the actual driving bit, because it’s the main part of the role. Coach drivers have to take a test called a Passenger Carrying Vehicle licence test.
Before they get anywhere near taking the test they need to apply for a provisional licence and take a medical that checks they are OK to drive a larger vehicle.
They then have to study for a Certificate of Professional Competence and the theory part of the test. Once they have passed the theory test it is time to start the actual driver training.
It will take around 3 weeks to get the medical and provisional licence. Another 3 weeks should cover getting the theory tests booked and completed. In regards to the training drivers can take an intensive course of around 5-7 days with a test at the end.
The cost of getting a PCV licence is anywhere from £1,000 to £3,000. It varies depending on the type of tuition you choose, location etc.
There is also an ongoing requirement to complete 35 hours of training every 5 years to keep the Certificate of Professional Competence.
2. Coach Holiday Driver – Driving Hours
In the past it has come as a surprise to guests that coach holiday drivers are subject to driving hours, in much the same way that truck drivers are. These hours limit the amount of driving they can do over a certain period of time, and stipulate how often breaks must be taken.
Sometimes coach holidays will use two drivers so that the coach can cover a longer distance, and this may be supplemented with feeder drivers that do all the pick ups first.
For example when I used to work on coach holidays that went out to Lake Garda the coach company used feeder drivers to do all the pick ups in the UK and take the coach out to the Belgium border. There we would meet the main tour drivers who would then take the coach down to the resort.
For simplicity the rules below apply to drivers who will be covered under EU driving rules.
In general terms coach holiday drivers needs to take a 45 minute break for every 4.5 hours of driving. This can be taken at the end of the 4.5 hour period, or it can be split. If it is split and taken during the 4.5 hour driving period the second break cannot be less than 45 minutes.
The maximum daily driving time is 9 hours. This can be increased to 10 hours twice in a weekly period.
There is a limit of 56 hours driving per week – made up of 6 x 9 hours plus two extra hours. There is a further limit of 90 hours per two weekly period.
Daily rest periods must be uninterrupted rest of 11 hours, although this can be reduced to 9 hours three times per week.
At the end of every 6 working days the driver must take a weekly rest of 45 hours. There is an option to take a reduced weekly rest but this must be compensated for in a two week period.
3. Coach Holiday Drivers – Two Drivers
For some coach holidays, where coaches are travelling longer distances to reach their destinations they can be operated by two drivers. Once the two drivers join the coach they have 20 hours to reach their destination. On arrival they both have to take a rest of 9 hours.
When we used to take the coaches down to Italy we would arrive on a Saturday and the drivers would be off from the time we arrived until the following Monday morning.
Whilst driving each driver still has to comply with the breaks i.e. they cannot drive for more than 4.5 hours without taking a break. The coach holiday driver who is not actually driving is considered to be taking a rest, so they are not allowed to do any other work.
Some coaches have bunks for drivers to sleep in when they are not actually driving. Most of the drivers I have worked with don’t like them – describing them as coffin like. They often prefer to stay in the front seat, often referred to as the jump seat.
4. Coach Holiday Driver – Other Duties
Coach holiday drivers have a number of other responsiblities that you may not have considered including;
Keeping The Coach Clean – Inside and Out
This means finding a water supply, or carrying their own supply and getting out the buckets and brushes whenever time allows. It also means cleaning the windows inside, clearing up the rubbish inside the coach and keeping the toilet clean. When you think about the size of a coach there is a lot to keep clean!
Filling Up the Coach
If you are on a touring holiday and on one coach for the duration of your tour then it will likely need fuel. Fuelling up means finding a fuel station that takes the fuel cards supplied by the coach holiday company. This is sometimes easier said than done. Fuel cards means that the company pays for the fuel directly rather than the driver.
Sorting out Directions with Tour Managers and Local Guides
If you are on a touring holiday then the Tour Manager and Coach Holiday Driver should work together to sort out the route between them. However, some Tour Manager’s leave this entirely to the driver to do. This means they are responsible for getting the coach to it’s destination each day, taking account of the route required by the holiday itinerary.
If your touring holiday includes tours with local guides doing city or other tours then they will need to work with the driver. Most guides can incorporate directions for the driver into their commentary, or direct the driver as they are talking. However, it can be tricky and made more difficult if the driver hasn’t been to a particular place before.
Loading and Unloading Luggage
Some holiday companies provide porterage for guests, meaning your luggage is delivered to your bedroom. The first stage of this journey is the luggage being unloaded from the coach by the driver. Imagine 45 main suitcases plus hand luggage and that’s a lot of luggage that needs moving.
Most hotels will pick up the luggage from the coach but some will only take it once it is inside the hotel. That means the coach holiday driver has to actually take all the luggage into the hotel as well. That can be very tiring after a long day driving.
Departing hotels means all the luggage needs loading again and many drivers prefer to do this before breakfast. This gives them a chance to change their clothes after the physical effort of loading luggage rather than being uncomfortable for the rest of the day driving. It also gives them a chance to catch their breath after all that effort too.
Dealing with Any Breakdowns/Maintenance Issues
If there are any issues with the coach during your holiday the driver will need to sort this out. This may involve getting a repair or a replacement coach organised.
Working with a Tour Manager
A driver once described the relationship between a tour manager and a driver like a marriage. It can be quite intense in that you suddenly find yourself spending all day working with someone you haven’t met before. You generally eat together and ideally work together to deliver a great tour for guests.
If you get on well together then it is much easier. I have always considered coach holiday drivers as colleagues and work with them, mutually agreeing as much as possible. Some tour managers do not take this approach and indeed some coach holiday companies do not allow their tour managers to take this approach either. One coach holiday company even forbids the driver from talking to passengers on their holiday. That must make for a very unusual atmosphere on the coach?
5. Coach Holiday Drivers – Different Rules for Different Places
An important thing to bear in mind if you are taking a coach holiday in a different country is that their rules can be very different to ours.
If your holiday involves flying then it is likely that your driver/s will be local. They are subject to different laws in terms of driving, drinking and mobile phones.
In some countries drivers are allowed to have a glass of wine or a beer with their meal. This may be a lunch stop for example. For British travellers this can be quite disconcerting.
Coach drivers in some countries can use their mobile phone while driving, which again can seem very strange to British travellers.
6. Coach Holiday Drivers – Professional Traveller Tips
- If you are travelling with drivers who are subject to EU driving regulations then don’t be frustrated if they have to stop for a break. Sometimes the breaks are affected by delays which might mean you need to take a break not far away from your destination.
- Help your coach holiday driver to keep the coach clean by taking any rubbish off the coach with you. If there are rubbish bags then use them and don’t leave anything on the floor. Used tissues on the floor are pretty rough to deal with and can cause the driver to catch a cold.
- If your touring holiday involves working with local drivers then be aware that they may have different rules to the UK. The coach holiday company will have checked out the coach company and the tour manager is able to send the coach or driver away if there are any major problems with either.
- Don’t forget to tip your coach holiday driver. The pay is not as much as you might think which makes tips even more important.
7. Coach Holiday Driver – Here’s Some Actual Drivers!
Here’s a video from Johnson’s Coaches. It’s their drivers talking about why they like being drivers!
If you have found this article about the role of a Coach Holiday Driver useful then you might also like;
Coach Holiday Tour Manager – what the role involves (it’s alot)
For more help to find your perfect coach holiday check out my Coach Holiday Expert page