To stay compliant with legislation under the section 19 and 22 permits, minibus operators must conduct regular safety inspections. There are two types, MOTs notwithstanding;
- Daily/Pre-use walk arounds – a check of lights, tyres etc before every trip, conducted by the driver
- Regular safety inspections – a more in-depth safety check, similar to an MOT conducted by a technically competent person
Updated advice from the DVSA at the end of 2017 states that safety inspections must now be conducted every 10 weeks or 6 weeks if the minibus is over 12 years of age, which is significantly more frequent than the old 17-week increments.
With the aim of preventing any accidental non-compliance, Castle Minibus has been contacting our customers to update them about the new minibus safety inspection guidelines, and we have collated some surprising feedback. Of the 200 schools recently surveyed, out of our 1500 minibus customers;
- over 70% of schools did not realise they had to have regular safety inspections to stay compliant within the section 19 permit
- More alarmingly, 60% of schools did not know what a section 19 permit was
The Community Transport Association is one of many designated bodies with the ability to issue permits and have stated that they will refuse to grant a permit unless it can be proved that the school minibus is having regular safety inspections ‘Safety inspections should be carried out with a maximum interval between inspections of 10 weeks. Vehicles that are 12 years old or older should be being safety inspected every 6 weeks.’ http://www.ctauk.org/advice-and-information/what-are-safety-inspections.aspx
Importance of good record keeping
In a mailshot from the Traffic Commissioner sent at the beginning of this year minibus operators are given the practical benefits of proper record keeping, with regards to safety inspections. It says,
‘At a recent public inquiry, Deputy Traffic Commissioner Hugh Olson outlined practical benefits that proper record keeping can have for operators.
- Effective maintenance systems – keeping proper records means your maintenance systems are more likely to operate well. Any failures will show up and can be fixed promptly
- Prevent future issues – keeping proper records means that if something does go wrong on one of your vehicles, you’ll be able to work out what has gone wrong and what needs to be done to avoid problems in the future
- Trust – by keeping proper records you can prove to the traffic commissioner that you are a good operator. Trust is really important. Traffic commissioners have to be able to trust the businesses they grant licences to. If you have proper records and can produce those to the enforcement agency and traffic commissioner, that trust won’t be broken’
Clear recommendations or conflicting advice?
So far, so clear. Your minibus should be inspected either on 6-weekly or 10-weekly increments, and proper records should be kept for producing in the event of enforcement agency inquiries.
However, the mail shot then goes on to offer a link to the DVSA Guide to Maintaining Roadworthiness, which only serves to provide confusing advice from the Government: ‘The frequency at which inspections are undertaken should be determined by assessing the level of mechanical degradation likely to be incurred over a period as a result of the vehicle’s usage.’ Guide to maintaining road worthiness.
Which then goes on to describe factors which may determine your intervals but does not give advice on the specifics. In fact, this list of factors is then followed by the advice that ‘Some operations however, are subject to continuous change, or vehicles can frequently be re-assigned alternative tasks or routes, making the adoption of a strictly time-based inspection programme impracticable. Mileage-based inspection programmes may be more suitable for some operators but will need to be linked to time.’ Which is in contradiction to the frequently changing use and drivers of minibuses where you are advised to keep to strict 10 weekly inspection. As within the Government’s Section 19 and 22 permit recommendations it states; ‘bearing in mind that passengers are to be carried on your vehicle, and possibly a number of different drivers used, you should carry out more frequent safety checks. DVSA recommend that inspections are carried out at least every 10 weeks.’
Despite conflicting advice – The solution is clear
Castle Minibus thinks it is quite clear, that despite the ‘work it out for yourselves’ take on the frequency of minibus safety inspections that some websites offer, either 6 weekly or 10 weekly minibus safety inspections is the proper way forward. The good news for schools that place their business with Castle Minibus or Castle Driver Training is that this will not be a problem as we arrange your minibus safety inspections and even have an app for proper record keeping.