No bus today due to lack of staff – this threatens more and more frequently in the future. Because the local transport companies in Germany have great problems finding enough bus and train drivers. At least half of the companies temporarily restricted their operations last year due to a lack of staff – this is the result of an industry survey by the Association of German Transport Companies (VDV), which is available to the German Press Agency.

“Perhaps there were even more,” says Harald Kraus, chairman of the VDV personnel committee and at the same time labor director at Dortmunder Stadtwerke. “In any case, I know almost nobody in the industry who hasn’t had to stop a line from time to time, for example.”

“Industry latently affected by downsizing”

77 percent of the companies surveyed stated that they expect a higher need for personnel in the transport service by 2030. At the same time, according to the survey, it is precisely in this area that they will see the most departures by 2030. Around 50 percent of the employees of these companies work in the driving service.

“In the past, our industry has always been latently affected by downsizing because financing was often tight,” explains Kraus. “Now the financing is in place because local transport is becoming increasingly important – but there are no employees.”

The transport companies surveyed assume that they will have to increase the number of their employees by around 20 percent by 2030 to expand the bus and train service – the VDV ultimately even expects a higher figure. For 48 percent of the companies, filling vacancies in the transport service is currently the greatest challenge, followed by commercial and technical staff.

The competition is tough, says Kraus: “We now compete with companies like Flaschenpost and Amazon, with whom we really don’t want to be compared in terms of working conditions.” In local transport in North Rhine-Westphalia, young professionals in the driving service received 15.60 euros an hour, which is 3.60 euros more than the minimum wage. “At Flaschenpost you have Sundays off – but then you forget that you also have to go to the sixth floor with the crates of drinks,” says Kraus.

Collective bargaining stalled

The extent to which salaries in the industry will change in the near future depends on the further course of numerous collective bargaining negotiations. In talks with Deutsche Bahn and 50 other companies, the railway and transport union (EVG) is demanding at least 650 euros more per month for employees and also some structural adjustments to the collective bargaining system. The start of negotiations with DB ended last week after just two hours – the ideas of both sides are very far apart.

In other transport companies, meanwhile, the collective agreement of the public service is applied, which is also currently being negotiated. But even in this collective bargaining dispute, there is hardly any progress – accordingly, last Friday there was a strike in local transport in numerous cities nationwide.

In addition to the VDV, which mainly represents public transport companies, the Federal Association of German Bus Companies (BDO) recently asked its members for more information about the shortage of skilled workers. According to this company survey, 87,000 bus drivers will be missing by 2030. The BDO, in which many smaller, private bus companies are also connected, announced that there is currently a need for 7,800 people in mid-February.

Include training time

Even if thousands of people were to report immediately for the driver service – the problem would only be solved in a few months. At Stadtwerke Dortmund, for example, it takes about eight months from the first day of work, according to Kraus, before a new employee without a bus driver’s license can drive through the city with passengers. The period is similarly long for the Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG).

The company trains bus drivers in its own academy in Berlin-Wedding, and driving school director Tobias Kutta has a clear motto: “Safety before driving time”. 28 days of theory, 28 days of driving practice, then route and tariff training, and how to deal with difficult everyday situations must also be learned. “In our company, the bus driver is actually a branch manager,” says Kutta, who himself was a bus driver for BVG for many years. “He drives, gives advice, sells tickets, does a bit of bookkeeping. He’s responsible for security and also for emergency management.”

He obviously always liked the job on the street, he really raves about it. But he also says: “You have to feel called to do this job, you have to have a heart for it.”