What minibus can I drive?

Can I drive a minibus on a car licence?

The simple answer is it depends on the weight of the minibus.

If you are a driving your minibuses under a Section 19 Permit (which allows not-for-profit organisations and charities to operate minibuses without an Operator’s Licence) then the weight limit of 3.5 tonnes dictates whether you need D1 entitlement to drive the minibus.

Vehicles that can be driven on a standard car licence.

Under a Section 19 Permit you can drive a minibus with a MAM (Maximum Authorised Mass) or GVW (gross vehicle weight) of under 3.5 tonnes. There is an additional allowance for specialist equipment for disabled passengers of 750kg but this allowance is ONLY for that equipment.

Vehicles under this weight limit, that can be driven on a car licence include the new Euro 6 Ford Transit factory-built 12 seat minibus and the Euro 5 Ford Transit 14 seat minibus or some converted 15 seat minibuses, such as the Citroen Relay.

An 8-passenger seat ‘minibus’ is considered a car so it can be driven with a standard car licence and no additional conditions apply under a Section 19 Permit.

Under a Section 19 Permit there are some conditions to meet when driving a minibus with a car licence.

  • they have held a full category B car licence for at least 2 years
  • they receive no payment or other consideration for driving other than out-of-pocket expenses
  • the vehicle has a maximum gross weight not exceeding 3.5 tonnes (4.25 tonnes including specialised equipment for the carriage of disabled passengers)
  • for drivers aged 70 or over, that they don’t have any medical conditions which would disqualify them from eligibility for a D1 licence
  • no trailer is being towed
  • where the driver’s licence only authorises the driving of vehicles with automatic transmission, that only a vehicle with automatic transmission is used
  • Drivers aged 70 or over who don’t meet the higher medical standards are not authorised to drive small buses. They can drive small vehicles being used under a permit, provided they have renewed their car licence.

For more information visit www.gov.uk/government/publications/section-19-and-22-permits-not-for-profit-passenger-transport/section-19-and-22-permits-not-for-profit-passenger-transport


What is D1 entitlement?

D1If you passed your driving licence was issued before 1st January 1997 you will have D1 entitlement. You can check by looking on the back of your licence and see D1 (101).

If your licence was issued after January 1st 1997 you will need to take D1 driver training and a test.

Vehicles that need D1 entitlement

Any vehicle that has a GVW (gross vehicle weight) of 3.5 tonnes or over (excluding the 750kg allowance for specialist equipment) requires D1 entitlement.

These vehicles are typically the larger 17 seat factory-built minibuses and some later 14 seat Ford Transit minibuses.

Finding the GVW or MAM of your minibus

Minibus WeightThe MAM is the weight of a vehicle including the maximum load (passengers, driver, luggage) that can be carried safely when it is being used on the road. This is also known as the gross vehicle weight (GVW) or permissible maximum weight and it is what dictates whether drivers need D1 entitlement.

You can find the weight, sometimes also called the plated weight on the chassis plate or VIN plate that is usually in the door frame, under the bonnet or in a front foot well. It looks like the image below. The MAM is always the second largest weight, in this case, 4100.

A note of caution about teachers driving minibuses on a car licence.

Under a Section 19 Permit there is a condition for driving minibuses on a car licence

  • they receive no payment or other consideration for driving other than out-of-pocket expenses

Schools should be aware that there is some ambiguity in the law surrounding this point and whether teachers are receiving payment/consideration because they are driving as part of their employment.

Castle Minibus agree with the NASWUT and have sought expert advice on this point and therefore recommend that all teachers/school staff have D1 entitlement.

 NASWUT National Union of Teachers

‘Whether a teacher may be deemed to be driving a minibus for hire and reward because they are being paid a salary as a teacher is unclear, and advice on this point is contradictory, except in Northern Ireland.

The NASUWT strongly asserts that, particularly but not exclusively due to the ambiguity around the hire/reward status, the full D1 licence is the minimum requirement, and a car licence is insufficient in all circumstances. If schools wish to train minibus drivers to D1 level, the costs of any training and testing for the D1 licence must be covered in full by the employer.’


Hertfordshire County Council

‘If you drive for your employer, your licence must include category D1. This includes teachers and school staff, during the school day or out of hours. That’s because you’re at work, being paid and your journeys are official business. There is an exemption for volunteers without D1 on their licence. However, our legal advice is that this exemption does not apply to teachers and school staff.’


Northumberland County Council

‘We insist that all drivers employed by Northumberland County Council hold category D1 minibus entitlement on their driving licence. Although there are circumstances where the law allows drivers in the voluntary sector to drive on a car licence (category B), the Freight Transport Association advise that the exemption does not apply to school teachers nor anyone else driving in the course of their paid employment. This is regardless of whether their contract of employment requires them to drive.


Clair McCarthy at CE Transport Law in October 2019.

‘I could find no case law specifically on the point of a teacher who drives a minibus in the course of their employment, but it is my view that the term consideration is not limited to payment for the specific journey but can include the general salary of the teacher or possibly non-monetary consideration. In short, I believe, albeit there is no case law on the specific issue, that your advice to your clients is correct in relation to needing a D1 category licence.’


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