” South West. In what context do these hiccups occur?
Fabien DUPrez. The national context complicates things, in the Basque Country as elsewhere. The situation is serious, since there is a shortage of 4,000 drivers in France. The ministry has been seized, the discussions have been going on for 18 months, we have just gone through a difficult summer due to strikes linked to inflation… Tours, Caen, Bordeaux… things stirred up everywhere.
Where is the grunt?
The situation was dealt with in the North of our perimeter (1). There is no call for a strike at the moment, but we remain vigilant and committed to dialogue: this afternoon (Wednesday September 21, editor’s note), I had a meeting, for example.
Where is the crux of the problem?
With 25% of services created over the past five years, we have shown that we seek to meet expectations. Only, we lack drivers, and not only to drive school buses. We still offer 500 lines, but there is only one conductor on each of them. Not one more. The slightest difficulty cannot be resolved in a snap of the fingers.
Why are drivers missing?
It’s just the coincidences of life: sick leave, unexpected childcare… When this happens, we need 24 to 48 hours to settle the matter. We cannot know in advance which line will be impacted, nor draw on a reserve of replacement drivers, as could exist in the world of work before.
To what extent does this phenomenon affect the Basque Country?
The reality is as follows: less than 1% of races are impacted each day, ie four to five circuits out of 500. And since it is never the same circuit, the situation is complex. In the end, the parents do not benefit from the expected service and express legitimate dismay: it is normal that they do not have to worry about the low number of lines affected, the day it falls on you, you are in the embarrassment.
What to do ?
Finding an off-the-cuff driver is impossible. We are trying to combine two rows. Or we find a subcontractor. But it takes a little time. Each time, a tailor-made solution has to be found.
How to seduce future drivers?
In the medium term, we must work on employment, to become attractive again. Large groups and the federation of small carriers are working on it. On our side, we seized the sub-prefect, who puts Pôle emploi at our disposal. This work should bear fruit, but not for several months. You have to pass the D license, then get in touch…
What are the brakes?
The constraints of the driving profession are the same as in catering or in a hospital environment: the question of weekends and evening work arises. These professions should be developed. The problem is not the budget, but the shortage of drivers. This creates constraints: during this start of the school year, we had to reduce the number of shuttles a little and increase the frequency of the Tram’bus on line 1, from 12 to 15 minutes. We prefer to announce tenable things.
(1) Or the Chronoplus network sector, with Keolis as delegate. Transdev manages the South. The rest of the Basque Country is a network of “small” local delegates.