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Bus and coach getting back on the road

By David Hale
Senior Underwriter

Over four billion journeys are made each year by bus and coach in the UK – for work, school, shopping, meeting family and friends, and visiting attractions.

These journeys have been impacted severely by lockdown, but the bus and coach industry is now looking forward to a resurgence in business when day trips and excursions can resume from 17 May, and hotels, guest accommodation and hospitality venues in England can reopen.

There are already signs that demand for domestic holidays is picking up. The news will come as a huge relief to coach operators. As an insurer member of the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT), the voice of the bus and coach sector across the UK, we know first-hand from members the impact that lockdown has had.

Like many UK industries, the coach sector has endured a very difficult period since the start of the pandemic. Many companies have had large parts of their fleets laid up for over a year and those dependant on running UK and EU tours have seen incomes dry up.

Passenger transport has been a significant and important part of the QBE motor insurance portfolio for over 50 years. Throughout the pandemic we’ve worked closely with brokers and customers to support the industry through these unprecedented times. In August last year we announced that we had given back over £10 million to motor fleet customers affected by lockdown.

Now, as day trips and excursions resume, we want to further help operators as they get vehicles back on the road. As well as checking that appropriate insurance, MOT and vehicle tax are in place we would like to flag some of the other areas to think about.

Motor Insurance Database (MID)

For firms that maintain their own records on the MID, it’s useful to check that details are up to date.

The police make around two million enquiries per month on the MID to check if vehicles have insurance. Also, information on potentially uninsured vehicles feeds into the police Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) network. When such a vehicle passes an ANPR camera the police are alerted, and the driver may be stopped. Making sure that vehicles are added and removed correctly in a timely manner to the MID helps the police to concentrate on vehicles that are uninsured and can save against fines and vehicles being seized.

Driver training

Having been out of action for a while, this may be a good time to introduce refresher driver training to reinstate good habits behind the wheel.

QBE customers can have online access to self-assessment questionnaires and a library of risk management material, along with a panel of approved partners who offer services, including training, at specially reduced rates for our customers. You can find more information in our Motor risk management service offerings brochure.

Driver wellbeing and mental health

Lockdown has affected peoples’ physical and mental health and wellbeing in different ways, so it’s essential for managers to understand how stress, anxiety and fatigue can affect driver behaviour.

It’s good to communicate openly with employees to let them know that their wellbeing matters, and it can be a relief for people to talk openly about how they’ve been affected by the pandemic. Bottling up feelings can make things worse. Mental health issues are the single biggest cause of workdays lost in the UK, accounting for approximately 57%, and costing businesses up to £45 billion a year in lost revenues.

Here at QBE, we’ve just launched a new mental health optimisation tool for our customers that’s unique in the insurance market. You can read about it and access the mental health tool here.

Vehicle safety

It’s obviously important that all vehicles are roadworthy and legal. If vehicles have been parked up for some time, the following checklist might help:

Visual inspection - conduct a full walkaround check, looking for any leaks or anything unusual.

Engine compartment - check for any rodents, birds or other animals that may have taken up home under the bonnet and look for chewed belts or wires.

Battery – check that the battery terminals are clean, start the engine and warm it up looking out for any warning lights.

Tyres – check that tyres are inflated to the recommended pressure. If the vehicle has been left stationary for a long time the tyres may have developed flat spots due to the weight of the vehicle pressing down. Flat spots usually disappear after a few miles of driving once the tyres have warmed up.

Fluid levels - check all fluid levels before starting the engine to make sure there have been no leaks and that they are at the recommended levels – oil, coolant, brake fluid, screen wash, fuel, etc.

Brakes - check that the brakes and handbrake are working. Drive forward slowly and check for any unusual noises or jolts. Rust may have accumulated, but it usually goes away after you drive the vehicle for a short time.

Air conditioning - run the air-con system to make sure everything is in working order.

Windscreen wipers - check that the rubber isn’t cracked or brittle.

Wash the bodywork to remove any dirt, tree sap and bird droppings which may have accumulated and can damage the paintwork.

Telematics - make sure that camera and telematics systems are functioning.

QBE: A name to trust in commercial motor insurance

QBE helps businesses build resilience through risk management and insurance.

With 30 years as the UK leader in minibus insurance, 50 years’ experience in insuring bus and coach fleets, and almost a century of insuring commercial vehicles, QBE is fully committed to the motor sector and proactively helping customers to manage risk and drive down claims. This approach has made QBE a name to trust in commercial motor insurance.

Need to claim? Report it early

Finally, a reminder that if you have an incident and need to make an insurance claim, it’s important that you report it as soon as possible, ideally the same day. Reporting a claim early can save time, help you to receive any claim payments faster, as well as allowing us to help mitigate the cost of third party claims.

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