This guide is only intended for general help; it is not a legal document. Therefore you should seek your own legal advice with these issues. This webpage is our interpretation of the minibus rules and should be used as a starter to verify the law for yourselves.
There is no single DVLA legal definition of a minibus since:-
A minibus with 7 or 8 passenger seats is taxed as a CAR with the road tax payable based on CO2 emmissions.
A vehicle with 9 and more passenger seats has a taxation class of BUS which is not CO2 based and is subject to a common road tax.
A minibus is classed on this website as a vehicle with between 7 to 16 passenger seats.
It can be driven on a normal car licence (ie. Non D1 or D1+E) if it is upto 3500kgs in Gross Vehicle Weight on a voluntary basis without fare paying passengers. A vehicle with over sixteen passenger seats is commonly classed as a coach and requires a PCV D licence category to drive on the highway with or without passengers, fare paying or not.
Note that manufacturers normally quote the total number of seats including the driver. So they quote and class minibuses as 8 to 17 seats. e.g a Ford Tourneo Titanium 9 seat minibus has 8 passenger seats and a Renault Trafic LL30 9 seat has 8 passenger seats.
Speed limits for minibuses(not towing a trailer) for A class roads (where a lower limit is not signposted ) is 50 mph. On a dual-carriageway the limit is 60 mph and 70 mph on motorways. When towing a trailer the limit on motorways is reduced to 60 m.p.h. It should also be noted that the outer (overtaking) lane of a three or four lane motorway must not be used when towing a trailer.
That being said, from 1st January, 2007, there is a requirement for all diesel minibuses registered after 1st October 2001 to be fitted with a speed limiter restricting their maximum speed to 62mph. This will be extended from 1st January 2008, after which date there will also be a requirement for all minibuses (petrol and diesel) registered after 1st January 2005 to be fitted with a speed limiter.
It is the driver's personal responsibility to ensure that the minibus has been fully serviced and is in a fit condition to drive on the road and that the necessary daily and weekly safety routines have been undertaken and the details entered in the vehicle log book. Failure to carry out these checks could absolve the employer from any vicarious liability.
For this reason it is essential that there is a proper vehicle maintenance system in operation and that certain basic checks are made before each journey begins. If there appear to be any faults which might affect the passengers’ safety, then the vehicle should not be used until they are all remedied. Driver checks should include:
In addition to the above, there should also be a regular vehicle maintenance system in place to monitor more detailed mechanical matters such as tyre pressure, coolant level and brake fluid level. Check the handbook to satisfy yourself that these checks have also been recently undertaken so that you can be confident that the school minibus is safe before you set off. .
Any defects found by the police if the vehicle is stopped, would be the responsibility of the driver who will personally receive any fine and / or subsequent points on their licence, or even prosecuted (depending on the seriousness of the offence). The driver would also be responsible for any road traffic offences committed.
The driver has the legal responsibility for enforcing this requirement and ensuring that seatbelts are worn, except in the case of adults and children aged 14 and over who are personally responsible for the wearing of their seatbelt.
If a section 19 permit is in operation by an organisation or school. It is the drivers responsibility to display that permit in the minibus for inspection.
It is the driver's responsibility to make sure that the minibus insurance policy covers all the uses relevant to how the vehicle is being used. i.e the total number of passengers allowed, the total weight and all the people allowed to drive the minibus.
Driving licences required to drive a minibus are based on the gross vehicle weight (GVW) and the status of the passengers carried.
A minibus that is upto 3500kgs gross vehicle weight can be driven on a normal car licence (category A or B depending on the vehicle's transmission) as long as the passengers are non fare paying for the journey directly or indirectly.
The driving entitlement needed for a minibus above 3500kgs, again with non fare paying passengers, is referred to as category D1 on a UK driving licence and D1+E for towing a trailer.
If you hold a driving licence issued prior to 1st January 1997, permitting you to drive Group A (or B for automatic) vehicles, you can drive minibuses in the UK but not in mainland Europe, provided you are over 21 years of age. (On new style licences the corresponding categories which allow the entitlement to drive mini-buses are listed as B and D1). i.e your licence will show a group A (B for automatics) on an old style green or pink licence or as category B and D1 (not for hire or reward) on a pink and green photocard licence. That being said, driving of the minibus must not be for hire or financial reward and the minibus must have no more than 17 seats, including that of the driver.
Note - Each time a driving licence is updated/renewed with the DVLA you will have to indicate that you wish to keep this entitlement as DVLA will automatically remove it.
Drivers who passed their test after 1st January 1997 are not given this category and are now required to pass PCV minibus theory, medical and practical tests to obtain a D1 licence. In these circumstances however, you may drive a minibus with up to 16 passenger seats only in the UK provided that you will be driving on behalf of a non-commercial body for social purposes, but not for hire or reward unless under a permit. You will also need to be over 21 years of age and have held a car (category B) licence for at least 2 years. The services you are providing must be on a voluntary basis and the minibus maximum weight must be no more than 3.5 tonnes (3500 kgs) excluding any special equipment for the carriage of disabled passengers (4250kgs). Drivers aged 70 and over will also need to meet the health standards for driving a vehicle (i.e. minibus) which comes with the D1 class. If you are driving for hire and reward under a Section 19 permit and you are being paid, you can only do so if you have passed a further test to obtain Category D1 Licence.
To summarise: If you have passed your driving test on or after January 1st 1997 and you wish to drive a minibus with a gross weigh in excess of 3.5 tonnes you will have to pass a D1 driving test. If you passed your car driving test before 1 January 1997, you automatically gained a licence with Category B and D1 entitlement, or Groups A and B on older licences, qualifying you to drive minibuses as well as private cars.
All minibuses that carry fare paying passengers will require some form of hire and reward driving licence category irrespective of the weight of the minibus or the number of seats. Fare payng can be via a direct payment or an indirect charge.
Many commercial businesses operate transport their staff to and from their place of work using their own minibuses. If the staff are charged for this service, then this is classed as ‘hire or reward’ (see above) and the appropriate licence would be required. If the staff were transported free of charge, this is not classed as ‘hire or reward’.
Driving a school minibus is not a task to be undertaken lightly and the safety of pupils and staff should always be the first consideration.The following rules apply to the incidental driving of minibuses by all types of educational establishments.
To re-iterate the above for drivers:-
A B category licence holder can drive a minibus, without passengers, with upto 16 passenger seats as long as the vehicle's gross vehicle weight does not exceed 3500kgs.
A D1 category licence holder can drive a minibus, without passengers, with upto 16 passenger seats under or over 3500kgs as long as the vehicle's gross vehicle weight does not exceed 12,000kgs (combined weight with trailer if D1+E category).
Volunteers who drive a school minibus are personally responsible for its roadworthiness.
Adding passengers - Non commercial schools and educational bodies operating without a section 19 permit.
Driver's note: If you volunteer to drive a school minibus you must, by law ensure a Section 19 permit has been obtained if one is needed.
Drivers who hold a category D1 driving licence can drive minibuses over 3500kgs in gross vehicle weight with up to 16 passengers as long as they are not employed to drive a minibus directly. ie. they undertake incidental driving.
The Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) Regulations 1999 allow a school to use drivers who only hold a category B driving licence and have not passed a D1 (minibus) driving test for incidental driving under the following conditions:
Adding passengers - Non commercial schools and educational bodies operating with a section 19 permit.
Generally, schools making a charge on a non-profit basis operate minibuses under a section 19 permit, allowing them to collect fares and contributions from pupils on a not-for-profit basis. This permit also allows certain drivers with standard car licences to drive these minibus under these conditions (limited to 3500kg GVW.
Adding passengers - Schools and educational establishments as commercial bodies.
Bodies that are deemed to be commercial, eg. independent schools which lack charitable status are normally only allowed to use category D1 drivers to drive their minibuses. Independant legal advice is necessary to ascertain if drivers who only have category B licences can be used. The interpetation of the establishments' status will be the primary objective of this legal advice.
Some private schools having private business status, operate their minibuses on a commercial operator's (PCV) licence. In these circumstances, a driver would not be permitted to drive the minibuses on a standard car licence. Current opinion is that the driving of students in minibuses for non-social purposes such as field trips is likely to be viewed by a court of law as being for 'hire and reward'. If the minibus is to be used for 'Hire and Reward', then a Passenger Carrying Vehicle (PCV) - Category D Licence is generally required.
Minibus and Community Bus Permits (Section 19 permits) are issued to organisations concerned with education, social welfare or other activities of benefit to the community. They allow certain organisations, including schools, to make a charge without having to comply with the full public service vehicle operator requirements and without the need for the driver to have a PCV (Category D1 or D) entitlement.
Certain organisations can apply for a Minibus Permit, (Section 19 -Transport Act 1985) for vehicles that can carry between nine and sixteen passengers. The Permit allows organistations like volunteer groups concerned with education, religion, social welfare, recreations and other activities that are beneficial to the community to make a charge without having to comply with the full passenger carrying vehicle entitlement (PCV) operator licensing requirements and without the need for their drivers to have PCV entitlement.
Many community transport organisations and charities now operate minibuses under a section 19 permit which, allows for the service provided to be for the organisations’ own members or for groups of people whom the organisation serves. Such organisations can charge or accept a form of remuneration for providing transport at a level to recover some or all of the costs of running the vehicle, and may even include an allowance for vehicle depreciation but the service must not be provided to members of the general public and the charges made must be on a non-profit basis. This non-profit requirement extends to cover any direct costs connected with a particular trip such as expenses incurred by volunteers, but not the wages of any staff involved.
A driver of a Section 19 permit minibus can either be paid or an unpaid volunteer.
It should be noted however, that volunteer minibus drivers who passed their car driving test after 1st January 1997 are restricted to drive minibuses which weigh no more that 3500kgs gross vehicle weight.
NB. Schools must hold a ‘Section 19 permit’ if minibus journeys are funded to any extent by outside sources such as parents or parent teacher associations. Schools and educational establishments who do not charge their pupils do not normally need a section 19 permit.
The Section 19 permit arrangements apply only in the UK and you cannot take a permit minibus abroad, if it is used for hire or reward, unless you hold either PCV D1 or D entitlement. When a school minibus is taken abroad, a tachograph must be fitted and used throughout the journey , observing EC drivers’ hours regulations.
Above the tax disk on the windscreen of the minibus should be another disk. If the minibus is being operated under a PCV licence the disk will be either blue or green. A white disk indicates that the minibus is being operated under a section 19 permit.
A Section 22 (Transport Act 1985) permit allows a minibus to be operated by bodies on a local bus service on a voluntary non-profit basis but only using unpaid volunteer drivers. Application needs to be made to the Traffic Commissioner for your area.
Section 19 and Section 22 permits are only applicable to the United Kingdom.
Tachographs are installed to monitor the amount of time drivers spend driving a vehicle and new government legislation requires businesses, schools, charities and other organisations operating minibuses with 10-17 seats commercially, to fit new digital tachograph equipment which will need to be operational for use in the UK from April 2007.
All vehicles, over 3.5 tonnes (3500kg), registered after 1 May 2006 are legally required to have a digital tachograph fitted. Minibuses with more than eight passenger seats registered after 1 May 2006 will also need to be fitted with digital tachographs. Vehicles registered prior to this date will require a tachograph to be fitted retrospectively and these vehicles had until 31st December 2007 to comply. During this period of compliance until a tachograph is fitted, drivers must keep an extract of the duty roster and service timetable.
The new digital tachograph unit operates by use of a driver’s card which is inserted into the driver card slot located in the front of each unit. Each driver has his or her own individual card and should be used and kept with the driver at all times when undertaking any driving activity with a vehicle equipped with a tachograph unit. Driver’s cards are available from the DVLA at a cost of £38 each and will last for a period of 5 years.
There are some exceptions where tachographs will not be required for domestic work in the UK. These include the exclusive use of the minibus for the non-commercial carriage of passengers, or by a local authority to transport the elderly or disabled.
Minibuses which can carry 9 or more persons (including the driver) and are used on journeys to or from the continent or the Republic of Ireland, come within the scope of European Union (EU) and other international regulations governing international bus and coach journeys.
Driving a minibus abroad requires compliance with more complex legislation. The exceptions given by a Section 19 permit do not apply and a post 1 January 1997 licence cannot be used in any circumstances unless the necessary PCV test has been passed and an unrestricted D1 category added. Pre 1997 licenses could be used for some journeys where no students are being carried but in most cases these divers also need to have passed a PCV test.
EU Regulations also require a tachograph to be installed and used for international journeys and you will be required to comply with the EC Drivers' Hours Rules. For trips abroad, a tachograph must be used from the start of the journey in the UK, with a new disc for each day, continuing until the end of the return journey to the UK. There must be one chart per driver per driving day. There are heavy fines for failing to install and correctly use a tachograph. Deliberate falsification of a tachograph can also result in imprisonment.
Further information on both the EU and Domestic Drivers’ Hours Rules is published by VOSA in (PSV 375) obtainable as above.
A vehicle which is being used on a Section 19 permit is still a public service vehicle and is subject to domestic drivers’ hours rules when a person is driving in the course of his/her employment. Therefore if payment to the driver has taken place (unless it is out of pocket expenses) then domestic drivers’ hours rules apply.
Domestic drivers’ hours rules do not apply for the private use of a minibus or when permit vehicles are driven by volunteer (i.e. unpaid) drivers.
Obviously if a vehicle is being used as a PSV on a Regular Service (local/ non local) then the relevant domestic drivers’ hours rules apply (or in the case of a route exceeding 50 km, EU Hours’ Rules).
For PSV non-regular services when a minibus is being used for a non-regular national service, then domestic rules apply. For international services then the EU rules apply.
If a minibus is being used for international journeys (including private use) then EU drivers’ hours rules apply.
By law, seat belts must be worn by drivers and passengers at all times. It is the responsibility of the driver to ensure that all passengers comply with this regulation. New seat belt laws require children under 135cm to wear child restraints in addition to seat belts. Driver responsibilities will vary depending on the type of minibus driven.
Ignorance to these seat belt laws will result in a new offence being committed, especially introduced for drivers of buses, coaches and minibuses. Drivers failing their passenger responsibilities can either expect to receive a £30 fixed penalty notice or a maximum fine of up to £500 if the case goes to court. Minibus owners and operators could also be fined a maximum of £2,500.
A fire extinguisher and first aid kit must always be carried;
Side lights must be on when the minibus is parked on the street at night
Horns and reversing bleepers must not be used between 11.30 pm and 7.00 am (except on major roads).
Where minibuses are operated as a core business activity for personal or commercial profit, this is deemed to be for ‘hire or reward’. Hire or reward' encompasses any payment in cash or kind by (or on behalf of) passengers which gives them the right to be carried.
Some commercial businesses i.e private nursing homes and school nurseries etc, operate minibuses as a small part of their business activity. In these cases, because the business gets paid a fee by their clients to be residents of their home, or children in their care, which indirectly includes the use of the minibus, this would be classed as ‘hire or reward’. Other examples of ‘hire or reward’ include where petrol money has been taken for taking children to school every day; or where courtesy coaches have been provided by a hotel as part of their amenities
If the minibus is to be used for 'Hire and Reward', then a Passenger Carrying Vehicle (PCV) - Category D Licence is required.
In most circumstances you will need to obtain passenger carrying vehicle entitlement (PCV) which will involve a requirement to meet higher medical standards and take a further driving test. You will need to apply to your appropriate Traffic Commissioner and fulfil the necessary legal requirements. If you are being paid to drive a minibus for hire or reward under a PCV Operator’s Licence, you can only do so if you have full Category D1 entitlement obtained through the passing of the theory and practical test for this class of vehicle irrespective of when you passed your driving test to drive a car.
However, up to two vehicles each carrying no more than sixteen passesngers can be used for hire or reward under a restricted PCV Operator’s licence by a person or company that is not in the business of carrying passengers in vehicles adapted to carry more than eight passengers i.e by a taxi firm, where use of this size vehicle is not ‘regular’.
If you drive a minibus for an organisation under the minibus or community bus permit scheme, you will not need to have the higher PCV entitlements. Application can be made to a voluntary organisation that is acting as an umbrella body or alternatively the Traffic Commissioner.
Getting a PCV driving licence (previously known as a PSV - Public Service Vehicle)
If you want a licence to drive a minibus,and you currently hold a valid full driving licence you will need to apply to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) for a provisional entitlement to drive a PCV. You will need to complete the application form D2 and the medical report form D4. The D4 has to be completed by a doctor (including a doctor’s fee of £50-£70) and you will need to meet the PCV eyesight requirements. There are also requirements ie. being of good character and over 21 years of age.
The UK driving theory test was introduced in July 1996 as a written examination and updated to a computer based test in 2000. The test is conducted by the DSA (Driving Standards Agency). The PCV (D1) driving test is similar to the test taken by coach drivers, only the vehicle you would drive is a minibus. The Driver CPC Module 1 PCV theory test costs £50.00 and.is divided into two separate parts; the Multiple Choice Test (100 questions) £35.00 and the Hazard Perception Test (19 interactive clips) £15.00.
The multiple choice questions are about a wide range of driving related topics such as the HIghway Code, vehicle weights and dimensions, drivers' hours, the carriage of passengers, hazard perception, environmental issues plus other matters relating to passenger carrying vehicles and driving law. Mock theory tests can be found on the DSA website www.dvsa.gov.uk
The second part is the Hazard perception test which must be passed at the same time. The pass mark for the multiple choice part of the theory test is now 51 out of 60 . Those taking LGV or PCV (lorry or bus) tests must also score at least 50 out of 75 in the hazard perception test. If you pass one part and fail the other you'll fail the whole test, and you'll need to take both parts again.
From 1 January 2012, new theory tests will be introduced using questions and answers that the candidates will not have had access to - a change to the Q&A banks that had previously been published by the Driving Standards Agency since theory tests began in 1996.
From September 2008 new legislation will require drivers with vocational licences (PCV D or D1 categories obtained by a separate test) to undertake additional regular training and be required to undertake and pass an additional Driver CPC module containing case scenarios before you’re even allowed to take practical driving lessons in a minibus in order to keep their vocational licences valid. This training is to ensure that all bus and coach drivers understand their responsibilities and keep up to date with new laws and regulations.
The PCV minibus practical driving test lasts 90 minutes . During the driving test the examiner will give you directions which you should follow. Test routes are designed to be as uniform as possible and will include a range of typical road and traffic conditions. More information is available on the Transport Office website.