Is leasing the answer to all your minibus headaches? Budgets, maintenance, advice and training.

It is very easy for school transport managers, or those given the responsibility of the minibus to feel overwhelmed by a role that doesn’t come with formal training but has potentially massive legal and safety implications. Minibuses are an expensive item to purchase and then there is the driver training to consider. Like any large project, breaking it down into manageable chunks and seeking help and advice where necessary is the best way forward, and as the trusted advisor to over 1500 UK schools Castle Minibus is proud to be able to support even the most reluctant of minibus managers with several packages that help spread not just the costs, but the responsibilities.

What responsibilities? The legal and safety implications

A recent survey by Castle Minibus of over 300 schools (January 2018) revealed over 70% were confused about Section 19 Permits. A school that’s a registered charity or not for profit organisation needs to display a Section 19 Permit in every vehicle to avoid the huge costs of a professional operator’s licence.

Part of the application for the Section 19 Permit includes an understanding of maintenance responsibilities and proof of your arrangements. If you hire a minibus you need to ensure it has a Certificate of Initial Fitness (COIF) or Certificate of Conformity (CoC) and must be in a safe and roadworthy condition. If you are planning to purchase a vehicle, you must supply details of the arrangements you have made to ensure that the vehicle is kept in a roadworthy condition. Leasing a vehicle through a reputable company such as Castle Minibus includes all the necessary maintenance and safety checks, now recommended to be at least every ten weeks.

10-week safety and maintenance inspections

Under a Section 19 Permit the DVSA and CTA (Community Transport Authority) who issue the permits recommend that minibuses have a maintenance safety check every 10 weeks by a qualified professional i.e. a mechanic.

Amanda Howard, on behalf of CTA Advice Team comments;

‘We find it is the smaller new members, and also schools, who don’t understand how important safety inspections are that will need further guidance to enable them to comply with our requirements. The CTA has always placed a condition on the issue of section 19 permits that members must undertake to carry out safety inspections at least every 10 weeks. Where we get an application for section 19 permits which does not state 10 weeks we use the opportunity to email our advice leaflet to them and to discuss what they are doing with regards to vehicle maintenance. Some of our members will carry out safety inspections at 6 weekly intervals and some at 8 weekly intervals, it will depend on their operations’.

Driver and staff training

Driver training for minibuses is also an additional concern for many schools. There is a real grey area as to whether teachers are considered volunteers when driving a minibus. If you’re in agreement with Northern Ireland, legal advice and Castle Minibus you will consider school staff ‘at work’ and still professionally responsible for their charges when they’re driving a minibus. Therefore, you’ll be looking to have them take the full D1 licence which includes a health and eyesight check as well as the theory and practical testing with a refresher course, such as MiDAS, every 3 years, as also recommended by the ISBA. Again, the costs of training can add up. Who is responsible for organising all this training, the maintenance and additional compliance issues? Usually the poor unsuspecting member of staff given the role of transport manager without any training or guidance.

Spread the costs and the responsibilities

Castle Minibus not only leases vehicles that include the 10-week safety and maintenance checks, road side rescue and their expert guidance as standard but offer a range of driver and staff training payment packages to suit all sizes of school. This enables the staff responsible for the minibuses to attend a minibus compliance course, written and delivered by ex-traffic police personnel, to ensure they know exactly what is expected of them in that role and allows for members of staff to complete not only D1 driver training but also refresher courses such as MiDAS, or the Castle Assessment day.

Castle Minibus are the champions of minibus safety and as such aim to provide accessible ways for UK schools to remain safe and compliant where their minibuses are concerned.

For more information call 01869 253744 or email

Article as seen in the Independent Schools Magazine, April 2018.