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The Quick Guide to Minibus Licensing Requirements for Teachers

There are a lot of things that differ between driving a minibus and driving a car.

I.e. looking in your rearview mirror to see a dozen jumping kids and spending 20 minutes trying to reverse into a tight spot. But before you even get to that, you've got to suss out things like what type of licence you need and if you meet the specific set of driving criteria.

If you hire a minibus through any reputable service — especially those that specialise in minibuses for schools and education — they’ll ensure you hire the right vehicle and help you through the paperwork side of things. But to ensure you're prepared, we've put together a brief guide that any teacher can use to get more acquainted with minibus licensing requirements.

Do you have the right licence?

If your driving license was issued before 1 January 1997, you’re entitled to drive Category D1 — a minibus with up to 16 passenger seats — as long as it’s not for ‘hire or reward’. That means you receive no payment from passengers other than to cover expenses like parking and fuel.

In pretty much every case that free schools, independent schools with charitable status, and academies use minibuses to take students on off-site trips — within the school day or as an extra-curricular activity — it’s classed as not being used for hire or reward. If you're a fee-paying school, it
could be viewed as commercial activity and therefore considered as hire or reward.

To drive a minibus for hire or reward you need a vocational D1 passenger carrying vehicle licence (PCV), which is attained by undertaking an additional driving test via the Driving Standards Agency.

Do you qualify for a section 19 permit?

 Section 19 permits are issued to certain organisations like volunteer groups that work in education, religion, social welfare, and other activities that benefit the community. Holding this permit means you don’t have to comply with the full passenger carrying vehicle entitlement (PCV) operator licensing requirements, but it requires that you meet specific criteria to qualify.

For instance, you can drive a minibus as a ‘volunteer driver’ if: you have held your licence for over 2 years; it's being used by a non-commercial body for social purposes, but not for hire or reward; its total weight does not exceed 3.5 tonnes or 4.25 tonnes if specialised equipment for disabled passengers is included; and you are not towing a trailer.

Have you covered all the bases?

Hiring a minibus is incredibly easy, but there are some conditions to do with licensing and capacity that can often get overlooked. One of these is if you obtained your full driving licence after 19 January 2013, you can only drive a minibus with a maximum length of 8 metres.

Another common one that trips people up is that minibuses weighing 3.5 tonnes or less can be driven on a car licence, but if the weight of passengers and luggage takes the vehicle over 3.5 tonnes, you must have a D1 on your licence or be a volunteer driver as described above.

Need a minibus for your next school trip or excursion? Work with a company that specialises in minibuses for schools and contact our friendly team today.

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