In April of this year, we sadly had to close the door on our Driver Training business. Before the pandemic, we were leading the industry with the quality of our MiDAS and D1 driver training – evidenced by incredible 1st-time pass rates that were consistently in the high 80-90%. Cliff and Paul were a big part of the team and assisted in the delivery of the Minibus Compliance Course that we were regularly presenting to schools up and down the UK.

When the pandemic hit in March 2020, we were able to move the Minibus Compliance Course online and we, like many others, put staff on furlough. Unfortunately, as lockdowns came and went, it was becoming increasingly apparent that the test centres and the backlog for tests as well as the uncertainty of when we would be able to offer 121 training again meant we really had no option but to close the business. This was a very hard decision to make but keeping the driver training business going in the face of such adversity was not possible. We wish Cliff, Paul, Liz and all our excellent driver trainers the best of luck for the future and are happy to say they have all since secured new positions.

With the loss of driver training, Castle can now concentrate on the remaining core areas of the business, namely the vehicles and the online training options.

Castle Vehicle Rentals

Our used minibus sales are proving very popular, especially now that there is a shortage of semiconductors, leading to a shortage of new minibuses, amongst other vehicles and smart tech. Our used vehicles are usually ex-leasing, so have only had one owner and have been well looked after. If you’re looking for a 14 seat Ford, pre-2014 so that is below 3.5 tonnes and does not require a D1 to driver, we are the ones that will have that for you.

We refined our rentals offering to 12-months because it is a better option financially for schools than ad hoc rentals and now, with covid, also means they don’t have to worry about deep cleans before use, not knowing who had the bus before them.

Minibus Leasing is also still popular as schools return to ‘normal’. We are still able to get our hands on new vehicles, despite the increasing shortage, and our leasing customers get a huge range of additional benefits, worth around £2000.

Castle is about safety and adding value to our customers, we want to be schools, charities and organisations trusted advisers when it comes to all things minibus, which is why we have a range of online training and assessments to help schools improve their safety and fleet management procedures.

CODA is Castle’s Online Driver Assessment programme. Schools or organisations have their own branded dashboard and drivers are invited to complete the online assessment that tests their attitude, knowledge, hazard perception and awareness. Once completed they receive a red, orange or green risk rating and also additional online training modules to improve their skills regardless of the outcome. The school can see their results and decide if they need further practical training.

STRIDA is Castle’s free app to complete and manage daily minibus checks. It can also be used for a more thorough weekly check. Schools set up their dashboard and invite their drivers to download the app. Their reports will then be filed in the dashboard and any vehicle issues are flagged up. This app is currently free and you don’t have to be a Castle customer to use it.

We also have the online Minibus Compliance Course, the only minibus compliance course for UK schools. The course is approved by RoSPA and is suitable for both drivers and managers of the buses.

Safety and compliance go hand in hand and Castle remain Champions of Minibus Safety. We still offer great service and value on our vehicles and support our customers with services to help keep them safe and legal.

Despite the loss of driver training we still go from strength to strength and remain the market leader in the UK minibus vehicle leasing market as well as the clear leader when it comes to minibus safety education and provision.

Thank you for all your past, current and future support.

Chris Maynard, Managing Director.