Challenging times

An interesting report landed on my desk which should be ringing some early warning bells for the industry.

The EU will have no new ICE cars for sale in 12 years’ time; only electrics. The reality of this is that manufacturers will be winding down combustion-engined car production much sooner and, as battery and hydrogen technology improves (as it will do, exponentially), the ICE will die with an EV-like whimper, not a V8 roar.

The same will be true of buses and, eventually, coaches, and with that comes a hidden problem; tens of thousands of people will lose their jobs. The report estimates that, in the European car market, 1.2 million jobs will go, not only in engine production but – as ICE vehicles are displaced – in garages, too. EV drivelines require very little maintenance.

That’s a long way off, I know, but fondly imagining that cities will welcome diesel once the pendulum has swung the other way is fantasy; not only that, but as the inherent reliability of EVs becomes clear, operators won’t want to keep diesels, and won’t need as many fitters. There are interesting times ahead for the next generation of the industry.

It’s 30 years since I first heard the name Pat Harris and BUSK – and I remember vividly this raising the hackles of the industry, almost universally.

The general consensus was that seatbelting school coaches was unworkable and unsafe. Indeed, retrofitting seatbelts was probably both of those things at the start, when it became clear that screwing seats on to plywood wasn’t enough. Faced with an army of critics including government ministers, a lesser person than Pat Harris would have caved in.

We perhaps all fought against the timetable, cost and impracticality of what was being proposed, but few who ever listened to Pat could doubt her determination, and none could doubt her motivation. It was always about the safety of school children. It was this which eventually turned the tide of opinion, and as BUSK worked with operators and broadened its focus to improving the quality of school transport, it won support from the coach industry.

We’ve celebrated BUSK’s 30 years in this magazine in a short feature which doesn’t even scratch the surface of Pat Harris’s single-minded – bloody-minded, even – campaigning which has occupied most of her working life. If the coach industry had ambassadors with even half her grit and determination, it would be in a better place.

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