The Hockey Master is off sick… is there anyone with a free period who can take the kids in the minibus across town?
Whoa there! Driving a school minibus is a very complex matter these days, you can’t just jump in and drive off.
The legal requirements of operating a minibus (9 to 16 passengers + driver) are far more complex than you might realise. Most information, even on Government web sites is described as guidance, it isn’t legal advice, nor is it a ruling on the law. Don’t end up being the test case.
The trouble starts for those who passed their car driving test on or after 1st January 1997, as they no longer have automatic rights to drive a minibus, unless it conforms to certain criteria, chiefly the minibus must be under 3500kg (about 12 seats). However there are loopholes and workarounds that means minibuses specially adapted for wheelchair access may fall into the category, and some companies are adapting regular vans into minibuses, as they are lighter.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) recommends that, irrespective of the legal requirements, teachers and other school staff who drive a school minibus should receive specific minibus driver training, and preferably hold a D1 PCV license. Anyone who volunteers to act as driver of a school minibus is personally responsible for its road worthiness. If any defects are found by the police or the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA), it is the driver who will be prosecuted.
A pre-journey checklist should be kept in the vehicle, and gone through each time the vehicle is driven. For example would you know to check the condition and operation of all seatbelts, seat anchorages, tail-lifts and any securing devices; fire extinguisher(s) foam or water (if passengers in wheelchairs are being carried, there must be two); do you have a spare set of bulbs? The commonest fault affecting minibuses, particularly twin rear wheel minibuses, is under-inflated tyres, and access to rear tyre valves is challenging.
ATL, the education union say a minibus driver should not be expected to ensure passengers remain well behaved and strapped into their seats at the same time as driving. The union recommends that there should always be two competent trained drivers in a minibus for anything other than a very short journey.
So just be careful out there, and no singing on the back seat.
You can find out more about the legislation on pupil transport in our Buckle up! webinar.