Frequently Asked Questions
Is your transport safe and legal?
This information is provided for organisations that hire, own, or operate minibuses (9 to 16 passenger seats plus driver) or MPVs (less than 9 passenger seats) as part of their activities. It provides an overview only of what organisations should know in order to ensure that they operate their minibuses legally. Signposts to further reading for more detailed information have been included.
This information is provided for organisations that are not profit making companies and include the following:
- Schools, colleges, universities or any other educational establishment
- Healthcare or care homes
- Faith or cultural groups
- Youth and children's groups
- Community transport groups
What is an operator's licence and do we need one?
What is Hire or reward?
What are the rules when running an MPV (less than 9 passenger seats)?
What does a section 19 standard permit (10b in Northern Ireland) look like and how long does it last?
Who can drive our MPV or minibus when operated using a section 19 or 10b permit?
Do we need to carry out Driver Licence Checks?
Is there any additional training our drivers should receive?
Should we be inspecting the safety of our minibus or MPV?
Is it acceptable for the driver to have sole responsibility for the passengers?
Do seatbelts have to be worn in a minibus?
Can we take our minibus outside of the UK?
Can we tow a trailer with our minibus?
Do we need a tachograph and what driver’s hours regulations do we have to comply with?
Should our minibus(es) have a speed limiter?
When is it a requirement to display a school bus sign?
Where can we find further information or get answers to other questions about operating our minibus?
Q1. What is an operator’s licence and do we need one?
An operator’s licence allows a person or an organisation to operate passenger carrying vehicles in return for any kind of reward. You are likely to require an operator’s licence of some type because “hire or reward” will exist in the majority, if not all, transport operations.
Section 19/10b permits
Non-profit making bodies will be eligible to operate under a section 19 standard permit (formerly known as a small bus permit) or a section 10b in Northern Ireland. A permit allows organisations to levy a charge for transport, but at a not-for-profit rate.
- Section 19 permits can be issued by CTA (to members), local authorities and DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency).
- Section 10b permits can be issued by CTA’s Northern Ireland office (to members) or the DOE (Department of Environment).
Public Service Vehicle (PSV) Operator Licence
Private or commercial companies that operate for a profit will need to apply for a PSV operator’s licence. Where only one or two minibuses are run a restricted operator’s licence may be sufficient. These are issued by the Traffic Commissioner for your area.
Q2. What is Hire or reward?
Hire or reward is any payment made for, or on behalf of a passenger to give them the right to be carried on a vehicle. Payment can be for other services, such as attendance at a class which also allows the person to travel. In law this is interpreted very widely, but there is case law to define it. Hire or reward can include membership fees, voluntary donations towards trip costs, and fundraising.
Further reading and information
- CTA’s Professional Services has detailed documents on the legal framework of operating minibuses, including the requirement for, and use of section 19 standard permits. The CTA’s “Professional Services” is a Member Benefit, see www.ctauk.org for more information.
- DVSA’s guide, ‘Passenger transport provided by voluntary groups under the Section 19 or 22 permit system - Guide for Operators’ (PSV 385) gives a useful overview. It can be viewed online at www.gov.uk or you can download the publication from the Advice and Information section of our website www.ctauk.org.
- Further information about the Northern Ireland section 10b permits can be obtained from CTA in Northern Ireland on 028 9094 1661.
- Additional information about operating a minibus under a PSV Operator’s licence can be found in DVSA’s guide, ‘Public Service Vehicle Operator Licensing - Guide for Operators’ (PSV 437) available for download from www.gov.uk or www.ctauk.org.
Q3. What are the rules when running an MPV (less than 9 passenger seats)?
In Great Britain, when operating a MPV under a section 19 permit operators must charge separate fares, and charge VAT if the organisation is VAT registered. Payment has to be made by the passenger and can be a direct fare, or it could be indirect as in a payment for a trip which covers both an entrance fee and transport. Contracts, such as SEN contracts, cannot be provided by permit operators as the Local Authority are hiring the vehicle as a whole and decide who travels.
In Northern Ireland, section 10b permits cannot be used in the operation of MPVs. All hire and reward operation of vehicles with less than 9 passenger seats in Northern Ireland falls under taxi legislation.
Q4. What does a section 19 standard permit (10b in Northern Ireland) look like and how long does it last?
All permits are in two parts.
- The A4 paper permit, which should be stored safely in the office
- The disc, which must be displayed in the windscreen of the vehicle
For your minibus operation to be legal you must have both parts and the disc must remain readable. If either part is missing, or if the writing on the disc fades the permit issuer should be informed and replacements obtained. You must not overwrite any of the information on a permit disc and you must not display photocopied discs.
The old section 19 small bus permits issued prior to April 2009 did not have an expiry date. Under the Local Transport Act 2008, all these permits expired on 6 April 2014 and should have been replaced.
Section 19 standard permits issued from April 2009 are valid for up to five years and must be renewed before the expiry date shown.
Section 10b permits in Northern Ireland do not currently have an expiry date. It is possible that this arrangement may change in the future with the introduction of new legislation.
Q5. Who can drive our MPV or minibus when operated using a section 19 or 10b permit?
MPV drivers (under section 19 permits only) are required to have held a full car (B) entitlement for at least two years and be aged 21 or over.
Minibus drivers who passed their car driving test before 1st January 1997 will normally have a D1(101) - minibus, not for hire or reward - entitlement on their licence. This will remain on the licence until it expires when the driver reaches 70 years old or unless removed by DVLA (DVA Northern Ireland), usually for medical reasons. Even though the licence restriction says ‘not for hire or reward’ these licence holders can drive a minibus operated under a section 19 / 10b permit without additional conditions.
Drivers who passed their driving test from 1 January 1997 were not granted the D1 entitlement on their licence. If a driver can comply with all of the following conditions they may drive, on behalf of a non-commercial body for social purposes but not for hire or reward, if they:
- are the holder of a full licence authorising the driving of vehicles in category B;
- have held that licence for an aggregate period of not less than 2 years;
- are aged 21 or over, and
- receive no payment or consideration for so doing, other than out-of-pocket expenses;
Drive a vehicle included in sub-category D1 which has no trailer attached and has a maximum authorised mass-
- not exceeding 3.5 tonnes, excluding any part of that weight which is attributable to specialised equipment intended for the carriage of disabled passengers, and
- not exceeding 4.25 tonnes otherwise.
The two conditions that cause most problems are the vehicle weight restriction and not being able to pay drivers. The fourth bullet point above is normally interpreted as meaning that the driver is a volunteer. However, there is a legal opinion that where an employee does not have driving as part of their job description and they receive no more pay as a result of their driving duties; they could be considered to be meeting the condition set out above. This opinion has not been tested in a court but has been accepted in some areas.
Where any of the above conditions cannot be met, the driver will need to pass a second driving test in a minibus including, medical and theory, hazard perception and practical tests. This will gain them a full PCV, D1 entitlement.
For organisations operating under a PSV Operators Licence
All drivers must have a full, unrestricted PCV D1 entitlement which can only be obtained through taking a second test in a minibus, as outlined above, and are required to hold valid Driver Certificate of Professional Competence.
Q6. Do we need to carry out Driver Licence Checks?
It is important in all cases that a driver’s licence is checked by a knowledgeable person every six months to ensure they still comply with the legal, insurance and organisational requirements. It is important that all drivers understand that they are required to inform the operator if anything changes such as any medical conditions or they get points or are disqualified from driving.
- CTA’s leaflet entitled ‘Driver Licensing - Permit Vehicles’, provides comprehensive information. Also, in 2006 the Departments for Transport and for Education and Skills produced guidelines on incidental driving of minibuses. Both documents are available in the Advice and Information section of our website www.ctauk.org.
- DVLA’s leaflet ‘Driving a Minibus (INF28)’ can be downloaded from www.gov.uk.
- The Driver and Vehicle Agency in Northern Ireland also has information on their web site at www.dvlni.gov.uk.
- A list of trainers who provide PCV training for the full D1 can be found on CTA’s web site at www.ctauk.org.
Q7. Is there any additional training our drivers should receive?
In all cases, but particularly where an additional driving test in a minibus has not been required, it is good practice to have drivers assessed and trained in minibus driving and passenger safety before they take passengers out. MiDAS - Minibus Driver Awareness Scheme - provides a structured programme for the assessment and training of drivers.
Further information can be found on the CTA’s web site at www.ctauk.org. Under the MiDAS arrangements drivers are reassessed every four years to ensure they remain competent. Reduced insurance premiums are available to CTA Member organisations that adopt the MiDAS training scheme.
A similar scheme is available for MPV drivers. See www.ctauk.org for details.
Q8. Should we be inspecting the safety of our minibus or MPV?
A nominated person should be responsible for ensuring that a full schedule of inspections takes place including:
- Daily walk-around check by the driver using a pre-printed form (which should be retained as a record) prior to taking the minibus out.
- A weekly supervisor check may be appropriate, particularly if there are a lot of different drivers using the minibus during the week. This will help to ensure that daily checks are being done thoroughly and nothing is being missed.
- Servicing as per the vehicle manufacturers recommendations is completed.
- An inspection leading to the issue of a MOT test certificate. A new minibus requires a MOT from year 1.
- Safety inspections to a check road safety items similar to that for an MOT and with a maximum interval between inspections of 10 weeks. These should be carried out by a competent person who is able to sign the inspection document to state that in their professional opinion the vehicle will remain safe and legal until the next scheduled safety inspection.
- Where a passenger lift is fitted to the vehicle it will need servicing every six months.
- CTA’s advice leaflets on maintenance schedules and MOT as well as DVSA and DOE’s ‘Guide to Maintaining Roadworthiness’ are available in the Advice and Information section of our website www.ctauk.org.
Q9. Is it acceptable for the driver to have sole responsibility for the passengers?
Where children or young people are being transported in a vehicle approved child to leader ratios should be complied with. For safety reasons it is not appropriate for a driver to have sole responsibility for child passengers in a minibus as he/she needs to be able to concentrate on driving without having to ensure the continued appropriate behaviour of passengers. Best practice would be that a nominated Passenger Assistant should be provided who has been trained in their role. PATS - Passenger Assistant Training Scheme -provides a structured programme for the training of Passenger Assistants. Further information can be found on the CTA’s web site at www.ctauk.org.
Q10. Do seatbelts have to be worn in a minibus?
The law requires all adult passengers to wear adult seatbelts when traveling unless they hold a medical certificate. Passengers aged 14 and over are legally responsible for ensuring they wear a seat belt. The safest rule for all drivers and passengers should be ‘no belt, no trip’.
The law for children traveling in minibuses is complex and depends on where in the minibus they are sitting. The driver is responsible for
- Ensuring that children under 3 years old use an appropriate child restraint.
- Ensuring children over 3 years up to 12 years old but under 1.35 metres tall use an appropriate child restraint if available or if not available that they use the seat belt.
- Ensure that children between 12 and 13 years old or over 1.35 metres tall use the available seat belt.
- Detailed information about seatbelts in minibuses and MPVs can be found in CTA’s advice leaflet, ‘Seatbelts & Child Restraints’ which can be downloaded from www.ctauk.org.
Q11. Can we take our minibus outside of the UK?
Yes, but there are a number of factors that may have a bearing on any decision to do so, including:
- All drivers, regardless of what kind of operators licence you usually use in the UK, must have a full, PCV D1 entitlement on their driving licence. This can only be obtained by taking a medical and passing the theory, hazard perception and practical driving test in a minibus.
- The minibus must be fitted with a tachograph (except in Republic of Ireland where a local agreement has been made exempting use of tachographs in that EU jurisdiction only) and EU driver’s hours regulations must be complied with. This may require more than one driver.
- An Own Account Certificate or a Waybill must be carried.
- There are various other requirements depending upon which country you are going to.
- CTA’s advice leaflet ‘Minibus Management - Going to Europe’ provides detailed information on taking a minibus abroad. It can be downloaded from the Advice and Information section of our website www.ctauk.org.
Q12. Can we tow a trailer with our minibus?
Yes, but the following should be taken into account:
- Ensure that the driver holds the appropriate licence. D1 entitlement allow the driving of a minibus with a trailer of up to 750kg maximum authorised mass (MAM). D1 + E should be on the driver’s licence where the maximum authorised mass of the trailer is over 750kg. In this case the minibus/trailer combination must not exceed 12 tonnes MAM and the laden weight of the trailer must not exceed the unladen weight of the towing vehicle.
- B licence holders need to upgrad their licence to drive a minibus towing a trailer.
- The gross-train weight of the minibus must not be exceeded.
- Regulations state that for every passenger seat in a minibus there must be unobstructed access to at least two exits. With some trailers it could be argued that they are obstructing one of the exits.
- Additional training should be provided to the drivers to ensure they are competent in managing the attachment of the trailer to the minibus and in driving the minibus/trailer combination.
Q13. Do we need a tachograph and what driver’s hours regulations do we have to comply with?
For organisations operating under a section 19 / 10b permits
When operating a minibus in the UK there is no requirement for the use of a tachograph on minibuses operated under a section 19 / 10b permit. If the vehicle goes abroad (outside of UK) however, a tachograph will be required. All employed drivers do need to comply with Domestic driver’s hours. In addition it is recommended that minibus operators take a common sense approach.
- Ensure that enough time is put into the journey plans to allow breaks for the driver.
- On longer trips share the driving between two drivers.
- Do not expect teachers to drive on long journeys after a full day in the classroom.
- Do not allow driving whilst the driver is taking any medication (prescription or over the counter) that might cause drowsiness.
For organisations operating under a PSV Operators Licence
Drivers of minibuses operated under a PSV operators licence must comply with EU drivers hours regulations and the vehicle must be fitted with a tachograph.
- DVSA produce a detailed guide, ‘Rules on Drivers’ Hours and Tachographs for Passenger-carrying vehicles in the UK and Europe’. It can be viewed from www.gov.uk/drivers-hours/overview.
- CTA’s guide, ‘Minibus Management - Tachographs’ can be downloaded from the Advice and Information section of our website www.ctauk.org.
Q14. Should our minibus(es) have a speed limiter?
Whether a minibus requires its speed limited to 100kph (62mph) depends upon:
- when it was first used
- fuel type
- whether it has a Euro III (or later) engine
Once a speed limiter is fitted, the minibus must not be driven in the outside lane of a motorway with three or more lanes.
- CTA’s advice leaflet, ‘Minibus Management - Road Speed Limiters’ gives detailed information about which minibuses need to have speed limiters fitted. It can be downloaded from the Advice and Information section of our website www.ctauk.org.
Q15. When is it a requirement to display a school bus sign?
Minibuses that transport children under the age of 16 to and from school at the start and end of the day must display a school bus sign on both the front and the rear of the vehicle. The regulations are quite specific about the size and design of the sign.
Q 16. Where can we find further information or get answers to other questions about operating our minibus?
CTA’s Advice Service is able to help with enquiries about any aspect of operating a minibus, contact us directly on our Low cost Advice Line number 0345 130 6195 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.