It was reported in Route One on 25th February that the Deputy Traffic Commissioner John Baker has refused to return four impounded minibuses to Claremont School of Ebden’s Hill, St Leonards on Sea, when it was discovered they were being used for reward or hire without an Operator’s Licence.
Schools can operate minibuses in one of two ways;
- Under a Section 19 Permit, if they are not operating their minibuses for reward or hire, this includes independent schools with charitable status. Schools can charge pupils a reasonable sum for the use of the minibus that covers the costs of use, including paying a driver, but cannot be making a profit from them
- If schools do, or wish to, make a profit from their minibuses, they must do so under an O licence, an operator’s licence, which requires an appointed transport manager and fully trained drivers with a D1 licence and CPC training.
The article doesn’t give much detail but reports school management had not realised that all transport activities must stop until compliance was achieved, following a warning. The school has since applied for the return of the buses on the grounds that it did not know that they were being used in contravention of the law but were refused.
Confusion over minibus compliance
School minibus management continues to be a complex grey area, and most schools seem to be managing on the most basic of information without appointing a specific person to understand and be responsible for the compliance and safety issues of managing their minibuses and drivers, whether it is one minibus or an entire fleet.
Castle Minibus identified this in 2017 when it launched its Greater Than 8 campaign, with an online petition, to raise awareness of minibus licensing and encourage best practise of getting all drivers trained with a full D1 if they’re driving more than 8 passengers. This would bring the UK in line with Europe, avoid any safety and over-weight concerns with ‘light-weight’ minibuses and ensure that all drivers had taken a medical and eyesight test as well as passing the theory and practical element of the test.
70% of schools didn’t know about a Section 19 Permits or 10-week safety inspections
Following calls to over 300 schools to inform them of a change in guidance from the DVSA from 17 week to 10 safety inspections, it was apparent to Castle that 70% of schools had a very poor understanding of minibus compliance and so, with the support of the ISBA, Castle Minibus wrote a Minibus Compliance Course.
With initial input from a former traffic police officer and Castle’s ADI trainers and then approved by RoSPA, ISBA and Beverley Bell, Former Senior Traffic Commissioner for the UK the course was launched in September 2018.
Beverley Bell, Former Senior Traffic Commissioner for the UK comments “‘The law in this area is complex and not always easily understood by schools and their teaching staff with severe penalties for non-compliance – as well as the risk to the safety of your pupils. It is therefore vital that your school “gets it right”.
Whilst there are still grey areas that have not been tested by law the course is able to give clear guidance on compliance and safety best practise that will enable schools to decide on their minibus policies, and document and record all that is needed to keep them compliant and running as safely as possible.
Castle Minibus has identified six cornerstones of compliance for schools to consider, all of which are covered in the Minibus Compliance Course;
- Responsibility and documentation
- 10-week safety inspections
- Daily walk around checks
- Vehicle weights
For many delegates who have attended the MCC they’ve come away with clear action points for compliance, such as completing 10-week safety inspections and daily minibus safety checks. The course also gives them food for thought on elements of best practise, where the law may be unclear, to ensure that their school is doing everything they can to stay on the right side of the law and keep their precious cargo safe.
For more information on dates and venues for the minibus compliance course please visit castleminibus.co.uk/driver-training/mcc or call Castle’s compliance team on 01869 253744.