Frequently Asked Questions
The following information is aimed at non-commercial minibus
users, such as schools, voluntary bodies and charities. It is
intended as advice and should not be taken as an official
interpretation of the law. However, it is based on the advice
licence do I need to drive a minibus?
entitlement is Category D1, meaning a vehicle built or adapted to
carry 9 to 16 seated passengers in addition to the driver. No
standing passengers are allowed.
Q. Can I drive
a minibus on a car licence?
A. If you passed
your car test before 1997, and you have no major health conditions,
D1 is normally included on your licence with a restriction code
that means “not for hire or reward” (see below for
definition). If you have an old paper licence from the 1970s
or 1980s it is included in Group A. However, this entitlement
will not cover you to drive a minibus in other countries (except
Ireland) or for commercial public service use.
If you passed your car test after 1 January 1997, you are
limited to vehicles with up to 8 passenger seats. If you wish
to drive a minibus for your employer or be paid to drive, you have
to pass the PCV test (see below) to get D1 added. There is an
exemption for unpaid volunteers to drive a minibus if ALL the
following conditions are met:
i. the vehicle is used for social purposes by a
non-commercial body but not for hire or reward
ii. the driver is aged 21 or over
iii. the driver has held a car (category B) licence for at least 2
iv. the driver receives no payment or consideration for doing so,
other than out of pocket expenses
v. the maximum weight of the minibus is not more than 3.5
tonnes fully loaded (or 4.25 tonnes including any specialist
equipment for the carriage of disabled passengers*)
*Note: the original maximum weight of the vehicle must not
exceed 3.5 tonnes before any specialist equipment
is added for disabled passengers.
Great care must be taken because many minibuses are over the 3.5
tonnes weight limit and therefore need a D1 licence even for
voluntary drivers. Check the owner’s handbook, the vehicle
registration document (V5C) or look for a plate on the vehicle
stating the Maximum Authorised Mass or Gross Vehicle Weight.
Q. I’m a
teacher. Why do I need D1?
A. Legal opinion
is that teachers are not exempt from needing D1, because they are
driving as part of their paid employment, even if driving is not
mentioned in their contract. This includes out of school
hours and weekends. The regulations state that to be exempt,
drivers must receive no payment or consideration for doing so,
other than out of pocket expenses. A salary or wage cannot be
viewed as out of pocket expenses. Also, to be exempt the
journey must be for social purposes, but official school activities
are clearly business use.
Q. How do I
add D1 to my licence?
A. You need to
pass a medical, the large vehicles theory test and the PCV driving
Q. What is the
A. PCV means
Passenger Carrying Vehicle and includes any vehicle with 9 or more
passenger seats. All driving tests are conducted by the
Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA). Successful candidates
for the Passenger Carrying Vehicle test gain either Category D
entitlement if taken in a bus or coach, or D1 entitlement if taken
in a minibus. The PCV test is longer and more stringent than
a car test.
Q. How do I go
about taking it?
A. First, you
must obtain a D2 application pack from DVLA, have a medical
examination and apply for provisional status to be added to your
licence. Then you must pass the Theory test for Large
Vehicles, followed by the PCV practical driving test.
Training for the practical test is essential and you must be
supervised by someone who has passed the PCV test themselves at
least 3 years ago and continues to hold a full D or D1 licence, as
well as displaying L plates on the minibus. Pre-1997 car
licence holders who have restricted D1 are not allowed to supervise
you while you are on a provisional licence. Most training
companies offer a 5-day course with the test at the end.
Q. Is there an
age limit for minibus drivers?
A. The minimum
age is 21. When renewing a licence at age 70, the holder must
pass a DVLA medical and include a request to renew minibus
entitlement in order to keep D1.
Q. What is
Bedford borough Council’s policy about drivers?
A. All minibus
drivers must hold a current MiDAS certificate. See the
MiDAS Page (opens in a new
Q. What am I
responsible for as a minibus driver?
A. As a minibus
driver you are responsible for the safety and comfort of your
passengers. You are legally liable for the roadworthiness of
any motor vehicle you are driving, even if it is owned by someone
else, such as your employer, although they share some liability for
this. So spend a few minutes preparing for your journey by
checking round the vehicle for any defects, make sure the tyres are
in good order (pressure, tread depth and condition), all lights are
clean and working, glass is clean and clear, and check that
essential fluid levels are topped up, including brakes, power
steering, engine oil, screen washers and coolant. Check that you
are covered by insurance and the vehicle has a valid MOT and
displaying a valid tax disc (and Section 19 permit if
Q. Can I drive
a minibus abroad?
A. Only if you
have passed the PCV test to get unrestricted D1 and the vehicle you
are driving has a tachograph fitted; you must have a Driver’s
Digital Tachograph card for this.
Q. Who or what
is a minibus operator?
A. The Minibus
Operator is the user of the vehicle, who can be either
- the driver if
he/she owns the vehicle, or
- the person or
body that employs the driver.
The vehicle itself may belong to the user, or be hired, leased
Q. What does
“hire or reward” mean?
A. Hire or
reward is any sort of payment that gives a person a right to be
carried on a vehicle, regardless of whether a profit is made or
not. The payment may be made by the person himself, or on his
behalf and may be a direct payment (such as a fare or other payment
made directly in respect of the journey) or an indirect payment
(such as a membership subscription to a club, school fees, payment
for a hotel room, or a concert or theatre tickets). Although such
indirect payments are usually made in respect of other services
(rather than for transport) they are nonetheless viewed by the
courts as hire or reward because anyone who had not made the
payment would have no right to be carried. Normally an
organisation that accepts payment for providing transport to
passengers must obtain a PSV Operator’s Licence from the relevant
Q. What is a
Section 19 Permit? Why should my school or club have
A. Under the
Section 19 permit scheme, non-profit making organisations can make
a charge to passengers for providing transport without the need to
obtain a PSV Operator’s Licence. However, Section 19 permits
cannot be used to provide services to the general public or on
journeys outside the UK.
Those applying for a Section 19 permit must satisfy the issuing
body that the minibus services are not run with a view to profit
nor incidentally to an activity which is itself carried on for
profit. Organisations that are registered as charities usually
qualify. However, any profit-making business would not usually
qualify regardless of how it applies its profits or income
Q. How many
drivers do I need for a trip?
A. This depends
on the length of time they will be driving, the age and needs of
the passengers, but as a general rule at least 2 drivers should be
available to share the driving. This provides cover for
emergencies. They need to concentrate when they are driving,
so they should not be expected to supervise passengers.
Q. How many
passengers can a minibus carry?
A. The maximum
is 16 all seated plus the driver; no standing passengers are
allowed. Everyone must have a seat of their own; you cannot
make 3 children share a double seat. Seat belts must be worn,
wherever they are sitting. Be aware that not all child seats
are suitable for use in a minibus as their shape is usually
designed for cars.
Q. What about
A. Great care is
needed to ensure that gangways are not obstructed; Construction
& Use Regulations require that every passenger
must have unrestricted access to at least two
means of escape. Care is also needed to ensure that the
maximum weight limit for the vehicle is not exceeded, and if a roof
rack is used it must not be overloaded or obstruct an escape hatch.
Everything carried must be secure. Drivers will need to bear
in mind that the handling of the vehicle will be affected.
Q. Can we tow
a trailer with a minibus?
A. The advice to
operators if a trailer is towed is that they must ensure that
passengers still have unrestricted access to the emergency
exits. If there is a risk that the trailer could block the
rear doors, then the trailer can only be towed when there are no
passengers in the rear compartment.
Drivers must hold category D1+E entitlement, the combined
maximum weight of the minibus and trailer must not exceed 8.25
tonnes for pre-1997 licence holders, and the maximum weight of the
trailer must not exceed the unladen weight of the towing
Q. What am I
responsible for as a minibus operator?
A. As a minibus
operator you are responsible for the safety and comfort of your
passengers. You must ensure that
- anyone that you cause or permit to drive
on your behalf holds a valid licence with the correct entitlement,
is competent and has received adequate training
- there is adequate insurance cover
- the vehicle displays a valid tax disc (and
Section 19 permit if required).
- You are legally liable for the
roadworthiness of the vehicle you are using, even if it owned by
someone else, such as a hire company or borrowed from another
school, although they share some liability for this. The
vehicle should be checked on a regular basis and any defects must
be rectified in a timely manner. Servicing must be carried
out according to the manufacturer’s instructions and proper records
must be kept for a minimum of 15 months and made available for
inspection by DVSA officers if required.