Bus companies are worried about the deficit of younger drivers and want the government to lower the training age. The average age of Estonia's buses drivers is close to 60 but there are very few ready to take their places when they retire.
"The average age is very, very high. For example, at Hansabus, the average age is 58, and if you draw a parallel, the youngest is 24 and the oldest is 82. And what worries me is that the under-35s make up 3 percent, so you don't see that much new blood coming in," said Hansabus manager Indrek Halliste.
The company is missing almost 10 percent of its drivers and Halliste said the whole sector has a similar problem.
Studies also show that two-thirds of drivers plan to retire over the next decade.
Hansabuss is not the only company with concerns – Tallinn City Transport would hire 100 more drivers tomorrow if it was possible.
The companies lay part of the blame on the legal minimum training age.
"You can start driving a bus when you're 24, but every young person has made their career choice by then," Halliste said.
Kaido Padar, head of Tallinn City Transport, said: "The demographic situation is also real – 50,000 fewer people will enter the labor market in five years. And if we think that 50,000 of them are going to go abroad to study, the sooner you can make it clear to young people that this is a great job, that you can contribute, the sooner this fight for people will start."
The reason the current rule is in place is because young people are perceived to be riskier drivers.
Bus firms proposed lowering the training age to 20 in 2018, but no action was taken.
Sander Salmu, deputy chancellor at the Ministry of Climate, said the age limit comes from a European Union rule which has since been changed.
"We have made a proposal to the Riigikogu to lower the minimum age to 21. But at the same time, [we have proposed] having a longer professional training period, 280 hours, to meet the concerns of the sector in particular," Salmu said.
He said the age limit could be lowered to 20 but additional steps need to be taken. Additionally, this would only be a national regulation and drivers could not make international journeys until they were older.
The proposal has been submitted to the Riigikogu. If it is passed, it will enter into force on July 1, 2024.
Editor: Merili Nael, Helen Wright
Source: Aktuaalne kaamera