Sunday, 10 October 2021

"Now we're short of bus drivers!"

From The Daily Mail:

The driver shortage across the UK has now spread into the bus network as public transport staff swap bus routes for work as truckers.

The wage increase promised to attract new HGV hauliers has led public transport staff to make a change, impacting the number of journey's on offer and resulting in the axing of others. Bus drivers can earn £32,500 on average, but can now earn up to £78,000 behind the wheel of a lorry instead.

Well of course, this was bound to happen. Anybody who's mastered the skill of negotiating buses through congested cities and along narrow country lanes (as well as the stress of idiot passengers and trying to stick to the timetable) will master lorry driving within a couple of days.

So then wages for bus drivers will go up a bit, and more people will train up to be bus drivers, ex-bus drivers will go back into bus driving etc.

In free markets, this sorts itself out, usually much sooner that you'd expect. And on another bright note, my assumption that the petrol queues would fizzle out after two weeks appears to have been correct. I went for 'two weeks' because that is the typical gap between visits, there is of course a wide spread.


dustybloke said...


Rich Tee said...

The free market doesn't seem to work for public transport though. Most countries subsidise it to some extent and it has a history of bankruptcy and failure. Even Amtrak is part-owned by the US government.

Most of the income comes from commuters and that stream has fallen off due to home working. Now the bus companies will have to pay higher wages to drivers, which will feed back into higher fares, which are already too high for an inferior service (economic definition of inferior).

I think we will see wholesale nationalisation of public transport. Much of it is effectively nationalised already.

Bayard said...

RT, the free market doesn't work for public transport in the developed world because it is outcompeted by private transport, except for air travel, where it isn't. Carrying passengers has never been a particularly profitable business compared to carrying freight.
Governments have to decide whether they subsidise public transport as a service, or have none. Our government can never make up its mind. It was interesting that, for Margaret Thatcher, when it came to subsidising the railways, they were a business, but when they went on strike, they were a service.

Mark Wadsworth said...

DB, I am familiar with that luke-warmenist site.

RT, this is not the time or place to argue the costs (huge) and benefits (even huger, if done properly) of public transport.

The point is there is a free market in labour - and public transport have to approx. match the wages of equivalent private sector jobs.

B, good points, ta.

Matt said...

Bus to town for me is £3.20 so if I had to go with the missus it'd be £6.40 - can you guess what a taxi costs? Plus that is door-to-door instead of walking a mile to the bus stop.

Mark Wadsworth said...

M, I guess the taxi is about £6?

Matt said...

And you would be correct. For one it makes some sense assuming you're not carrying anything large/heavy, for two you might as well get the taxi.

Robin Smith said...

Are you saying there is such a thing as a free market. Or even, that the greater part of the market is free?

That would be quite a surprise from a Georgeist high priest

Mark Wadsworth said...

M, ta.

RS, no market is 100% frictionless free. Bus drivers still have to retrain, get a certificate, pay a few quid fee etc. Those are very low barriers to entry. But that's as close to free as we can get, so it might delay the transition slightly but the end result is correct.

Lola said...

Petrol Queues/shortages. Just been on a bit of tour of the UK. Two weeks. Ipswich to Milton Keynes. Then Hope Valley. Then Greta Bridge. Back to Hunstanton and then home.
No queues at all. Sometimes no Shell V Power. So no problem. Anywhere.