Minibus compliance is an area that schools struggle; knowing what is expected of them and how to manage and record these requirements. To help prepare for a return to school September (regardless of Covid-19), we wanted to offer some general guidance in three areas of minibus compliance to help you create a robust minibus safety system. If you have any questions regarding the points below, please give us a call on 01869 253744, our compliance team would be happy to advise.

  1. Get the Right Permit

Schools that hold charitable status or operate not-for-profit can apply for a Section 19 Permit which allows them to operate a minibus without the need for an Operator’s Licence. The Section 19 Permit does have restrictions and conditions that need to be adhered to including; not profiting from the use of the minibuses, not carrying the general public, regular checks and vehicle inspections, correct driver licences dependent on the status of the driver and the weights of the vehicles.

Watch our explanation video on vehicle weights

A Section 19 Permit is currently less than £15 and is allocated by the Traffic Commissioner. One is required per vehicle. The DVSA and traffic commissioner have the power to withdraw a Section 19 Permit and also impound vehicles if you are operating your vehicle under the wrong permit. This was the case for Claremont School of Ebdens Hill, St Leonards on Sea, whose vehicles were impounded because they were being operated for profit without an Operator’s Licence. Read more here.

Link to government information on Section 19 Permits

  1. Recording required minibus checks

Under a Section 19 Permit, two important vehicle checks need to be completed, in addition to regular services and MOTs.

Daily or pre-journey vehicle checks. These checks need to be completed by the driver before taking the minibus on the road. This is to check for any potential issues that could hamper your journey  – e.g. is there enough petrol, but also to protect the driver by ensuring the vehicle is legal and in good condition – e.g. tyres in good condition, no bumps or scrapes, fire extinguisher and first aid kit in place.

These checks must be completed under a Section 19 Permit. Castle recommends that drivers complete a quick daily 12 point check, that doesn’t involve opening the bonnet and that a more thorough check is completed once a week. This combination of daily and weekly checks will ensure any issues are quickly identified and remedied. A Section 19 permit requires these checks to be recorded and that records are kept for 15 months.

Castle has a free app to help complete and manage these checks called STRIDA. School Transport Record and Inspection Dashboard with App, available on app stores. Read more here.

Watch our video on our free minibus checking app – Strida

10-week Safety Inspections. Under a Section 19 Permit vehicles are required to have a safety inspection completed by a qualified, independent mechanic every 10 weeks, 6 weeks for vehicles over 12 years. These inspections are in addition to regular services and MOTs, and the daily driver checks. A 6-month forward plan of these checks is required and again records need to be kept for 15 months.

Castle Minibus work with two national companies that will come to your school and complete 10-week safety inspections. This service is available to all schools, not just Castle customers, and has proved exceptionally popular as it means vehicles do not have to be dropped off and picked up and the work is completed by an independent engineer and not the mechanic that completes the MOT.

Read more about the requirement for 10-week inspections under 11.3 Vehicle safety inspections and routine maintenance checks

  1. Assess your drivers

Your drivers are both your biggest asset and greatest risk when it comes to minibus safety. If you can provide them with a free and easy way of checking minibuses daily this is a huge contribution to minibus compliance. It also protects them from problems on the road and any personal prosecution for a vehicle defect e.g. A £2500 fine and three points for a bald minibus tyre. There are other ways that schools can also protect themselves and their drivers out on the road; these include regular licence checks for any penalty points or changes, eyesight and medical checks and most importantly driver risk assessments.

MiDAS is the nationally recognised refresher scheme for minibus drivers, recommended every 4 years and includes both practical and theory elements. Online driver assessments, such as CODA, Castle’s Online Driver Assessment, have been developed to allow schools to easily risk assess their drivers annually and provide additional online training. Castle also offers an assessment day which is predominantly a practical driver assessment with some additional refresher training.

Watch our video on Castle’s Online Driver Assessments

Preparing for September

Using the summer holidays to think about your minibus safety system and put any training, assessment and record-keeping policies and procedures in place will stand your school in good stead to be safe and compliant come September.

Castle Minibus are Champions of Minibus Safety and we have developed apps, services and online resources to help schools increase their safety. This includes an online minibus compliance course to help all those teachers and school staff who manage and driver minibuses understand what is required. All Castle’s compliance services are available to all schools, not just existing Castle customers, and we’re happy to advise where we can. Please just give us a call on 01869 253744 or email our dedicated team complaince@castleminibus.co.uk