Motoring – Check Your Employees Driving Licences

Vehicle Category Descriptions 1

Minibuses and Commercial Vehicles

Changes to the regulations in January 1997 affected the entitlement to drive a minibus.

Holders of full car licences obtained before 1st January 1997 (showing entitlement to drive groups ‘A’ and ‘B Automatic’ on old licences, and groups ‘B’ and ‘D1 not for hire or reward’ on new licences), can drive a minibus with a maximum of 16 passenger seats as long as they are at least 21 years old. In addition, the vehicle must not be driven for hire or reward. To drive a minibus with nine or more passenger seats for hire or reward, a Passenger-Carrying Vehicle (PCV) category D1 or D licence is required. An additional driving test is required for a category D1 or D licence and higher medical standards must be met.

Drivers who obtained full car licences after 1st January 1997 are restricted to driving vehicles with up to eight passenger seats, and would need to take an additional driving test and meet higher medical standards before driving higher capacity vehicles. Information on the necessary medical standards and additional testing can be obtained from Traffic Area Offices or the DVLA.

In certain circumstances, however, drivers may be allowed to drive a minibus with up to 16 passenger seats without having category D1 entitlement, where the following criteria are met:

  • the minibus is being driven for a noncommercial body (i.e. a charity) for social purposes, and not for hire or reward
  • the driver is over 21 (if over 70, they must meet Group 2 health standards)
  • the driver has held a full car licence (category B on the new licences) for at least two years
  • the service is provided voluntarily
  • the minibus does not exceed 3.5 tonnes (or 4.25 tonnes if fitted with specialist equipment for the disabled)

Within the UK, Minibus and Community Bus Permits3 can also enable drivers with a standard car licence to drive minibuses with up to 16 passenger seats where a charge is made for carrying passengers. This is as long as the organisation that runs the minibus is concerned with education, religion or other services that benefit the community. In all other cases, if a minibus is operated for hire or reward, a PCV category D1 or D licence is required.

There are many more factors to consider when driving a minibus, and you need to take extra care when evaluating eligibility for PCV licences, the towing of trailers, etc. Carefully check the employee’s eligibility against the types of vehicle they are expected to drive, and make sure you fully understand the financial arrangements under which the minibus will be operating. Consult the DVLA or Traffic Area Offices if you are in any doubt over eligibility.

3These permits are not recognised in other EU countries, and a PCV licence would be required whenever a charge is made for carrying passengers.

Where Local Authorities are operating minibuses, they will have additional operational requirements. Refer to the local Transport Manager or Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) to ensure compliance.

Best practice within the fleet industry dictates that all employees driving minibuses should undergo some form of appropriate driver training. This is the case even if they are permitted to drive the vehicle by virtue of holding a car licence issued before January 1997, or under a Minibus and Community Bus Permit. Many fleets obtain training through the Minibus Driver Awareness Scheme (MiDAS) operated by the Community Transport Association. In addition, some fleets impose minimum age (e.g. 25 years of age) limits and minimum driving experience (e.g. three years) on their drivers. These extra safety measures highlight the high risk associated with driving minibuses and buses, where the potential for personal injury or fatalities is greatly increased.

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