National Express Master Driver May 2016

National Express has teamed up with IAM RoadSmart (formerly the Institute of Advanced Motorists) to train and certify its world-class bus drivers. The industry-leading Master Driver scheme means National Express is the only bus company to train its expert drivers using an IAM RoadSmart-accredited course. 103 drivers are now certified Master Drivers.

Ross Pettit, Assistant Master Driver Manager for the bus company, explains:

“The National Express Master Driver scheme is about more happy passengers. We want to drive standards up so journeys are even safer and more comfortable for our customers. And it gives our drivers something to aim for, and to celebrate when they achieve it.

“Master Driver is an advanced driving qualification which gives our bus drivers extra skills training accredited by the Institute of Advanced Motorists. It’s the same level as police pursuit drivers and Bentley limousine drivers.

"National Express demands very high standards. All our bus drivers are already professional drivers and we continually monitor their performance, both in person and using our in-bus tracking systems.

"To attain Master Driver status, a National Express bus driver must have three consecutive years of unblemished safety records, excellent customer service and top-performing driving ability. That’s not easy when you’re driving every day in a busy urban environment.

“If our drivers can demonstrate all these, they will then do computer-based driver analysis to help them - and us - understand their attitude towards certain driving conditions and risks, and an NVQ-level customer service qualification. This all takes place over six weeks.

“They will then take the IAM RoadSmart Advanced Public Service Vehicle training course and must pass the test. This entitles them to become members of the Institute of Advanced Motorists."

Duncan Pickering, Market Development Manager for IAM RoadSmart, said: 

“We are delighted that National Express has chosen IAM RoadSmart for its training programme. National Express clearly knows the importance of ensuring its drivers reach the highest safety standards. It’s all about offering its passengers the ultimate reassurance that they are in safe hands the moment they step on board a National Express coach.”

Birmingham driver Darren Dunbar was one of the first to qualify as a Master Driver, meaning he’s earned the right to wear a white shirt with the increasingly famous Master Driver blue tie and a special HiVis when driving his bus.

“Who would have thought a white shirt and blue tie would make such a difference?” he says. “It has made the Master Drivers feel different - even more proud than we were before. It makes the passengers stop and ask, ‘What’s with the new uniform?’

“This advanced driving test reminded all of us how important it is to maintain and develop our driving skills. I’ve been driving for 16 years and it taught me lots of new techniques and skills. I now look at this job through a new set of eyes - the eyes of a Master Driver.”

Malcolm Hoyte has been a bus driver at National Express’s Coventry garage for 28 years. He qualified as a Master Driver in March.

“I’ve seen a lot of changes in my time, but this is about celebrating drivers’ individual achievements. Being a certified Advanced Motorist feels good, it gives you pride and a renewed sense of focus in your driving. 

“I really enjoyed doing the advanced driving course. You don’t know how much you are processing when you’re driving until you have to commentate on what you’re doing - which they make you do in the test. The course is a challenge, but if you want recognition, you have to put yourself through it.”

Ann Lucas, (former) Leader of Coventry City Council, was at Malcolm’s Master Driver graduation ceremony.

“It’s great to see National Express putting its money where its mouth is and committing to training its drivers. I go on the bus all the time and the drivers do a great job. I’ll be looking out now for those blue ties - and then I’ll know my bus is in the capable hands of a Master Driver.”

Among the 56 drivers who have successfully completed the Master Driver course are Roderick Dicken and his son Paul Dicken, who both live in Tividale and drive buses from National Express’ West Bromwich garage.

They trained together on the Master Driver course, and Paul beat his dad to the final qualification by a couple of weeks.

Roderick says: 

“All I ever wanted to do was drive buses, right from when I was a little boy - I was obsessed. I’m so proud of achieving this Master Driver qualification, even more so as my son and I did it together. I’m doing the job I love and becoming a Master Driver is the pinnacle of my working life.”

Published 24th May 2016