The ability of an individual to drive a minibus safely is extremely important due to the size and risk of driving such a large vehicle.
Our brief guide for (both potential and current) minibus drivers is comprised of the best tips and key advice. We have separated the manual into subheadings according to the most significant areas in preparing you for minibus driving and have included the necessary information regarding safety – because after all our aim here at Quotax is to simplify the journey.
Driving a minibus only occurs after volunteering to do so and therefore personal responsibility lays with the volunteer. If a mechanical defect is reported by police, the driver is accountable and is liable for fines, license points or even prosecution – regardless of whether they own the vehicle or not. The driver has the requirement to ensure that the insurance policy covers all leisure uses and information (i.e number of passengers, weight).
Minibus use is typically associated with school trips or club outings and the training programmes for the permits are usually provided – with full funding – by the National Union of Teachers (NUT). The programmes cover all the key sections (vehicle familiarisation, emergency scenario, seatbelt use, disability aids and road assessment) and are generally several weeks long.
Before every minibus journey, the teacher driving should check the following components:
- Fuel and oil level
- Windscreen wipers/washers
- First Aid Kit
- Fire extinguisher
- Permit on display
- Paperwork (insurance and driving license)
The teacher should also check at regular intervals – but not before every use – the following more mechanical aspects of the vehicle:
- Tyre pressure (particularly critical given that under-inflated tyres are the main fault with accidents, according to Belt Up School Kids Campaign)
- Coolant level
- Brake fluid level
A Section 19 is a permit which enables an organisation to lend their minibus to another organisation, not for profit. If you do not lend the vehicle at all, you do not need a Section 19. The Traffic Area Network Office supplies the permits and can be contacted via the Vehicle and Operator Service Agency (VOSA).
You can only drive a minibus if these 5 standards are met:
- You must have a full car driving license and must have held it for at least two years
- You must not drive a minibus with more than 16 passengers
- You must be 21 or older
- You must have a Section 19
In addition to those mentioned above, there are laws in place to better confirm the safety of minibus passengers:
- A 2 point or 3 point lap seatbelt is required at every seat, including the disabled spaces
- Children aged 14 or above are held personally responsible for their safety and seatbelt use
- UK Minibuses going abroad have to comply to European Commission regulations over driving hours
- Minibuses abroad must have a tachograph (a device used to record speed and distance of travel) attached
- The past ‘3for2 concession’ (allowing three kids to share two seats) has been made illegal – every child must occupy an individual seat
- The NUT has issued a strong recommendation that a 2nd driver is present in the minibus on all journeys (though this is not a law)
- Pre 1997 driving licenses automatically included a minibus enabling qualification. After 1997, minibus drivers require an additional Category D1 test and pass (for which the Local Education Agency will pay)
- School Minibuses typically have an Any Driver Policy so each teacher or staff member driving does not need to make themselves known on the insurance (unless they have previously committed crimes or have been involved in accidents)