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Minibus licence requirements


For many schools, the minibus is a vital piece of equipment and they would struggle to cope without it. Almost all school minibuses are driven by a member of staff, who is usually employed to drive or has driving duties as part of their job description. They require a particular category on their driving licence as well as special training to satisfy insurance requirements, not to mention health and safety regulations.

However, there are times when teachers or other members of staff may drive the minibus on a voluntary basis. What are the rules around this kind of use and what do schools need to know to ensure they remain compliant with both their insurance policies and legal/regulatory requirements?

The type of licence needed to drive a minibus varies depends on what the minibus is used for. It’s unlikely that all staff members will need special training and a particular licence but it is definitely worth schools familiarising themselves with the types of licences, what those licences cover and in which circumstances they will be needed.


Driving a minibus with a car driving licence

There are some circumstances where a minibus can be driven under a valid UK car driving licence (category B).


Not for hire and reward

A valid UK car driving licence is sufficient to drive a minibus for up to 16 passengers so long as the driver is not paid or rewarded, either by the passengers or by someone on the passengers’ behalf. A minibus is used for hire or reward if there is a clear and logical link between payment and the transport provided and that link is not too remote.

The following requirements must also be met:

  • the driver:

  • is 21 or older

  • has had their driving licence for at least 2 years

  • the weight of the minibus is no more than 3.5 tonnes, or 4.25 tonnes including specialist equipment for disabled passengers (such as a wheelchair ramp)

  • the minibus is not towing a trailer

Licences issued before 1st January 1997

Anyone who got a category B car driving licence before 1st January 1997 also received a D1 minibus driving licence. Therefore, they can drive a minibus with some restrictions (see below).


Minibus permits

A minibus permit (also known as a Section 19 permit) is usually given to groups that benefit the community.

Under a Section 19 permit, a minibus can be driven for up to 16 passengers on a car driving licence so long as:

  • the minibus is used for the benefit of the group/community and not the general public;

  • the minibus is not driven for profit or any activity that’s linked to making a profit;

  • the driver:

  • is 21 or over

  • has had their driving licence for at least 2 years

Although the minibus cannot be operated for profit, passengers can still be charged out of pocket expenses. For example, passengers might be asked to pay for fuel and parking.


Driving a minibus with a D1 licence

Drivers with a D1 licence can drive a minibus for up to 16 passengers. There is no maximum weight restriction on a minibus under a D1 licence. However, the vehicle must be no more than 8 metres long.


Licences for driving a minibus commercially

To operate a minibus commercially (for profit), the driver will need:

· A Public Service Vehicle (PSV) licence and

· A Passenger Carrying Vehicle (PCV) licence


Driving a minibus abroad

Many schools organise events and trips that involve overseas travel. If this is the case, the school will need to check the licensing requirements in that country.


Driving a school minibus

A school staff member can drive a minibus for up to 16 passengers if:

  • option 1 - they hold a D1 or PCV licence, or

  • option 2 - they have a valid car driving licence that was issued before 1st January 1997 and the minibus is not being driven for hire and reward, or

  • option 3 - they have a valid car driving licence and the school has received a section 19 permit because:

  • the minibus is not being driven for hire and reward

  • the driver is over 21 and has had their licence for at least 2 years

  • the minibus is used by a non-commercial body for social purposes

  • the driver receives receive no payment other than out of pocket expenses

  • the driver operates the minibus on a voluntary basis (see below)

  • the weight of the minibus is no more than 3.5 tonnes, or 4.25 tonnes including specialist equipment for disabled passengers (such as a wheelchair ramp)

  • the minibus is not towing a trailer

What does ‘voluntary basis’ mean?

If a staff member’s contract says driving a minibus is part of their duties, or they are paid extra (on top of out-of-pocket expenses) for driving the minibus, they will need a D1 licence. This is because the staff member is being paid to drive the minibus.

If a staff member’s contract does not say that driving the minibus is part of their duties and they receive no extra payment (besides out of pocket expenses), a car driving licence with a Section 19 permit is sufficient. This is because the staff member is considered to be driving on a voluntary basis.


Driving a minibus over the age of 70

It’s possible to drive a minibus if the driver is 70 or over. However, they will need to:

  • complete a D2 application form;

  • ask a doctor to complete a D4 medical report;

  • apply for a minibus licence, if the car driving licence was obtained on or after 1st January 1997.

Insurance

In addition to the licensing requirements, it is important to check that the organisation’s insurance covers the use of a minibus.

It is worth bearing in mind that the rules around this are quite detailed and it would be easy to inadvertently breach them. Therefore, it is advisable to obtain legal advice to make sure legal and regulatory compliance is achieved.