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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 of  solicitors.


Q.        What licence do I need to drive a minibus?
        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?
        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 years
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?
        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?
        You need to pass a medical, the large vehicles theory test and the PCV driving test.

Q.        What is the PCV test?
        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?
        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?
        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?
        All minibus drivers must hold a current MiDAS certificate.  See the MiDAS Page (opens in a new window) 


Q.        What am I responsible for as a minibus driver?
        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 required).

Q.        Can I drive a minibus abroad?
        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?
        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 or borrowed.

Q.        What does “hire or reward” mean?
        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 Traffic Commissioner.

Q.        What is a Section 19 Permit?  Why should my school or club have one?
        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 surpluses.

Q.        How many drivers do I need for a trip?
        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?
        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 luggage?
        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?
        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 vehicle.

Q.        What am I responsible for as a minibus operator?
        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 and
  • 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.

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