One other powerful speaker at the road safety conference was coach driver Marc Skinner. He took two days’ holiday to attend the conference as he felt it was important to speak out about the conditions faced by coach drivers who transport teachers and children on longer school trips.
“Sometimes, we have to drive for up to 21 hours on a school trip, with another driver, and when we get to the other end, we find we have to share a room,” said Marc, pictured.
“Sometimes these rooms are small, one bed could be a sofa and we may have to share bathroom facilities with children. Is that appropriate? How are we going to be properly rested for an overnight drive home if we have had no sleep because of inadequate accommodation?”
Marc spoke of trips, particularly for skiing, where he has had to share with drivers who are complete strangers, sometimes men and women having to share rooms when they don’t know each other.
“I’m appealing to parents to think of the man or woman at the front of the bus. Are we ‘just the driver’? Or are we the most important person on that bus? We need to be properly rested and to have own privacy when away on trips.
“We’d like parents to be aware of some of the conditions we have to face. Would they mind paying a little extra, maybe as little as £10, to ensure that we are able to be rested before we bring their children home to them?”
When a school arranges a trip overseas, sometimes in the UK, they can use a tour operator who then book a coach company with all trying to keep costs to a minimum. The driver can be the least important part of the overall equation.
“If parents start asking questions about the driver and his or her accommodation at an early stage, it will help get the message out there that we are important for the safety of the children on that coach and we need to be treated reasonably.”
He played a recording of the snoring of a fellow bus driver in a room which was shared. He talked of having to sleep in a chair in a hotel lobby for two nights on another occasion where his room mate snored so loudly he could not sleep.
Marc is part of the Nightcap campaign, supported by Busk, which is trying to encourage parents, schools, coach companies and tour operators to think about the coach drivers and provide them with quiet and private, single rooms. Busk was established 21 years ago to promotes safe child school transport and was integral to the introduction of seat belts on coaches.