A minibus is a practical and cost-effective way for your school to transport pupils for sports fixtures, field trips and other extracurricular activities that fuel learning outside the classroom. But are your driver and vehicle up to the job? 

As a school, you have a number of obligations under H&S law to ensure your vehicles are safe and roadworthy. It’s also your responsibility to assess the competence of your drivers, not only for their own wellbeing but also to protect passengers and other road users.

Staying on top of vehicle checks  

Categorised as a D1 vehicle by the DVLA, a minibus typically seats between 9-16 passengers, not including the driver. When operating a minibus, it’s essential to be aware of a series of vehicle guidelines and safety considerations. These include:

  • The proper licence for the type of vehicle
  • Current and correct tax for the vehicle category 
  • Suitable, up-to-date insurance 
  • Overall driveability and sound working condition of all parts and fittings
  • A valid MOT certificate and proof of regular servicing 

For audit and due diligence purposes, every school should keep robust records of their minibus MOT and servicing history. In addition, the driver should undertake a documented pre-use vehicle check before every journey. This could be broken down into external and internal inspections covering areas such as:

  • Oil level 
  • Fuel level 
  • Brake fluid level 
  • Windscreen washer fluid level
  • Lights, including brake lights and indicators
  • Properly functioning doors   
  • Seatbelt condition
  • Tyre pressure and treads

Compliance management software such as Safety Cloud can streamline the assessment and documentation process from start to finish with a series of easy-to-use, web-based Work Equipment Checks. Please get in touch to learn more about Safety Cloud and what it could offer your school. 

Delivering the right driver support 

Before taking to the road, minibus drivers must satisfy a range of requirements and licence checks, which can be carried out through the DVLA. We also recommend that operators complete health surveillance questionnaires to ascertain their level of fitness for working behind the wheel. 

To hold a full, unrestricted Category D1 or D licence, which allows drivers to operate a minibus, individuals must have passed the necessary test and be 21 years or over. Staff without a Category D or D1 licence can also legally drive the vehicle in restricted circumstances, as long as it is not being used for hire and reward purposes. This is possible: 

  • If the driver earned their Category B licence before 1 January 1997. 
  • If the driver obtained their Category B licence after 1 January 1997 but is granted permission under a Section 19 permit. 

Although there is no specific, formal driving test or qualification for minibus operators, it is good practice to insist on further instruction, such as the nationally recognised Minibus Drivers Awareness Scheme (MiDAS). Most insurers make training mandatory as part of their condition of cover, so it’s an investment worth making. 

For more expert guidance on minibus, vehicle and transport safety across your school, chat to our experienced team of education sector specialists on safetyadvice@southalls.com or 0345 257 4015