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Teachers Driving Minibuses

Teachers Driving Minibuses – The Need for D1 – 2013 update

Summary
  • All drivers must hold category D1 on their driving licence to drive a minibus for the organisation or school that employs them.
  • Staff who only have a car licence and wish to drive a minibus must pass a medical and the PCV theory and practical driving test to add D1 to their licence.
  • There are circumstances where an unpaid volunteer, such as a parent, could drive a minibus on a car (category B) licence, but this cannot be applied to teachers.
  • All Hertfordshire County Council drivers must hold a Minibus Driver Permit, issued following an assessment of their competence.
  • More information and Frequently Asked Questions appear online at :

Definitions
  • A Minibus is a vehicle built or adapted to carry 9 to 16 passengers plus the driver, with no standing passengers allowed. 
  • The driving licence entitlement for minibuses is Category D1
  • Hire or reward is any sort of payment by passengers that gives them a right to be carried. It does not refer to the driver being paid.
Three Reasons why Teachers need D1:

Firstly, teachers and other school staff are driving the school minibus for their paid employment.  A teacher’s contract may not detail every activity and duty they carry out, but they receive a salary for doing so and they are subject to employer discipline for any negligence or misconduct whilst doing so.  We therefore conclude they receive payment or consideration for their work including driving, which is prohibited by the driving licence regulations when driving on a car licence.  The fact that driving is not specifically mentioned in their contract is not sufficient.

Secondly, the exemption for car drivers stipulates that the journey must be for social purposes: school trips are official school business – if a member of staff took some pupils as passengers in their private car, they would need business use insurance cover as it would not be covered by a social, domestic and pleasure policy.

Thirdly, the exemption only applies for minibuses up to a maximum of 3.5 tonnes fully loaded.  Many newer minibuses are over this weight limit; e.g. Ford Transit is 4.1 tonnes.  The weight limit will not be changed.  If a teacher relied upon the exemption and drove a minibus weighing less than 3.5 tonnes, the school might then replace it with a new heavier vehicle and the teacher could end up driving illegally if this was not picked up.

Background

Drivers who passed a car test before 1997 were given restricted minibus entitlement for non-commercial use, known as D1 not for hire or reward; this covers people such as teachers driving for schools.  These pre-97 licence holders were also given category C1 for medium goods vehicles up to 7.5 tonnes and entitlement to tow trailers.  Schools generally operate minibuses under a Section 19 Permit, which enables them to accept payments from their pupils and to use drivers that have D1 not for hire or reward entitlement.  All Hertfordshire County Council drivers must hold a Minibus Driver Permit, issued following an assessment of their competence.

Since 1 January 1997, passing a car test no longer gives entitlement for C1 or D1 or towing a trailer without passing additional driving tests.  A car licence (category B) is limited to vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM) with no more than 8 passenger seats.  To gain D1 these drivers have to pass the Passenger Carrying Vehicle (PCV) test.  All this came about through EU driving licence harmonisation.  However, the UK negotiated a derogation for the voluntary sector that enables people to drive a minibus in the UK on a car licence under a list of conditions (see below).  The argument is over the high cost of training for the PCV test, and whether the exemption can apply to teachers, but it has never been tested in court.

The conditions for the exemption, as stated in the Motor Vehicle (Driving Licence) Regulations 1999 are:

  • they drive on behalf of a non-commercial body for social purposes, but not for hire or reward (unless covered by a Section 19 Permit);
  • they are aged over 21;
  • they have held a car (Category B) licence for at least 2 years;
  • they receive no payment or consideration for doing so, other than out of pocket expenses;
  • the minibus maximum weight is not more than 3.5 tonnes excluding any specialist equipment for the carriage of disabled passengers.
Hertfordshire County Council’s Position

Our position is based on legal advice from the council’s solicitors taken in 2000, which has been reviewed periodically in 2006, 2010 and 2011.  Their view continues to be that the only reason a teacher is driving a school minibus is because of their paid employment with that school.  This includes driving outside of school hours and at weekends, since a teacher’s contract does not state daily hours of working, only an annual number of hours of “directed time”.  They are therefore “receiving payment or consideration” since their salary cannot be considered “out of pocket expenses”.

Our former Director of Education wrote to the DfES in 2002 about the matter and the reply from the then Minister for Schools, concurred with our solicitor's view that teachers needed to hold category D1 entitlement on their licence, they are not eligible for the exemptions that apply to the voluntary sector, and he could not see a case for exempting them.  HCC’s view is shared by a number of other local authorities.

Costs

Training for the PCV test is expensive and typically is provided by companies that train bus and lorry drivers.  They charge around £150-£200 per day and a typical course is 5 days including the practical test on the final day.  Apart from the expertise of the instructor, the Minimum Test Vehicle Requirements have made it more costly for training companies to provide a suitable vehicle.  Few school minibuses meet the requirements.

The fees for the necessary medical, the theory and practical tests add up to at least £250.  Of course some candidates fail the test and have to re-take at a further cost.  So it can cost at least £1000 to get each candidate through the test to get D1.  There is also the cost of supply cover if the teacher is out of school during term time.

Without D1, the risk remains that an employee could be prosecuted for driving without a valid licence, and HCC could then be prosecuted for causing or permitting someone to drive unlicensed. If convicted, there could be a heavy fine, court costs and the added implications of negative publicity.

A Final Point

A member of the Association of Industrial Road Safety Officers, who is a consultant on driving licence matters, supports our position and believes that a court would be highly likely to find that a driver should hold D1 in these circumstances.

Naturally, we would not wish an employee of HCC to be the test case. Most important of all is to fulfil our Duty of Care to the pupils and indeed our staff.

Despite explaining all of this on many occasions, we continue to receive enquiries from schools.  We feel there is a need to issue this statement to schools confirming the council’s position and asking that schools accept the situation.  We therefore ask for your understanding of our position as outlined above.  Academy status schools may wish to obtain their own legal advice.

The full HCC Minibus Driver Policy can be found in the Minibuses section of the Council’s web site: