Shortage of driving instructors threatens to disrupt heavy road transport
Bus and truck drivers will soon need formal professional training
A shortage of driving instructors threatens to halt or seriously hamper truck traffic in Finland in five years.
In compliance with EU directives, all bus and truck drivers will have to take a professional driver training course, while a driving licence alone will not be adequate.
As things stand, such professional courses cannot be arranged, as there are simply not enough driving instructors. Currently, around 150 vacant driving instructor jobs are looking for someone to fill them, while the number of students starting driving instructor training has not been increased.
The nightmare scenario is that after the transition period of five years, a great many professional truck drivers will be left twiddling their thumbs for lack of formal qualifications.
Another factor having an adverse effect on the shortage is the fact that there are plans to increase the number of training hours required to obtain other driving licence types, namely a moped licence or an ordinary driver’s licence.
According to Minister of Education Sari Sarkomaa (Nat. Coalition Party), the situation is alarming and untenable.
At present, driving instructor training is provided only by the Vocational Teacher Education Unit of the HAMK University of Applied Sciences in Hämeenlinna. Some 80 students are admitted to start the vocational training annually.
According to Pekka Ahlgren, who is in charge of the training programme, it is very unlikely that the number of students will be increased.
Timo Lankinen, the Director-General of the Finnish National Board of Education (FNBE) says that increasing the number of students would be unlikely to resolve the problem, as not all graduates choose a career as a driving instructor.
Minister Sarkomaa suggests that the income level of driving instructors should be raised, while the attractiveness of the work itself should be improved.
Hannu Sirén who is in charge of the polytechnic level education at the FNBE, admits that there has long been pressure on increasing the budgetary appropriation devoted to driving instructor training. For the time being, additional funding has not been granted. However, Minister Sarkomaa has promised additional funding for driving instructor education in 2010 at the latest.
The number of Finnish professional bus and truck drivers is some 80,000 to 90,000. The majority of them are truck drivers, while only 10,000 are working in the bus and coach sector.
Currently, the majority of Finnish bus and truck drivers have a driver’s licence only. However, in the future the drivers will have to obtain the professional level of education in compliance with the EU directives for goods and passenger transport. Moreover, they will be obliged to take part in regular subsequent on-the-job training in order to maintain their occupational skills.
The new competence requirements for bus drivers will enter into effect in the autumn of 2008, and for truck drivers in 2009.
The Finnish National Board of Education (FNBE)