One of the most frequently asked question at the moment in the minibus world is ‘can I drive a 17 seat minibus on a B license’? and in some cases the answer is yes!!
The laws dictating whether or not you can drive a 17 seat minibus on a B license can appear complicated, as it all depends on how you will use the minibus.
If you passed your test on or after 1 January 1997 you can drive what is generally known as a category B licence minibus. You might also be able to drive a Lightweight Minibus with up to 16 passengers, which is not being used for hire or reward, so long as you meet all the following criteria:
· You are at least 21 years old
· You have held your car licence (sometimes called a non-D1, category B or even a 'standard' or 'ordinary' driving licence) for a minimum of 2 years
· The minibus is being used on a voluntary basis for social purposes by a non-commercial body e.g. State Schools, Scouts, charities and sports clubs
· The maximum weight of the minibus and all of its contents (GVW or MAM) cannot exceed 3.5 tonnes, or 4.25 tonnes where specialist equipment is fitted to carry disabled passengers e.g. wheelchair lifts or ramps
· You do not tow a trailer of any size or weight
· You receive no payment for driving a minibus where it is incidental to your main employment, other than recovery of out of pocket costs such as fuel and parking expenses
· If you are over 70 years-old, you will be required to undertake a medical examination to ensure you meet 'Group 2' medical standards
Can you charge passengers for running costs?
If you need to recoup running costs from passengers, you can apply to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) for a section 19 permit, so long as the following conditions are met:
· The minibus can carry between 9 and 16 passengers
· You are driving on a voluntary basis for an organisation which benefits the community e.g. a religious, sports or educational establishment
· The minibus service is only made available to members of the organisation, not the general public
· Charges are to cover running costs and not for profit
Do you qualify for a section 19 permit?
Section 19 permits are issued to certain organisations like volunteer groups that work in education, religion, social welfare, and other activities that benefit the community. Holding this permit means you don’t have to comply with the full passenger carrying vehicle entitlement (PCV) operator licensing requirements, but it requires that you meet specific criteria to qualify.
For instance, you can drive a minibus as a ‘volunteer driver’ if: you have held your licence for over 2 years; it's being used by a non-commercial body for social purposes, but not for hire or reward; its total weight does not exceed 3.5 tonnes or 4.25 tonnes if specialised equipment for disabled passengers is included; and you are not towing a trailer.
What is hire and reward?
To avoid being in breach of the law, it's important to understand how 'hire or reward' is defined. If a passenger is deemed to have made a payment in return for travel in a minibus, this is classed as hire or reward, regardless of whether the organisation is profit making or not. Both direct and indirect forms of payment can be treated as hire or reward:
· Direct payment - a passenger who pays a fare in return for travel
· Indirect payment - Any situation where a clear and logical link can be made between a payment and transport being provided e.g. a hotel shuttle service
Advice for schools.
Do you run an independent school with charitable status, or a state school such as a free school academy or grammar?
If you take pupils off-site for trips within the school day or during an extra-curricular activity, where pupils do not pay for the transport, this is unlikely to be classed as operating for hire or reward*.
Do you run an independent, fee-paying school without charitable status?
It is possible schools in this category may be viewed as a commercial body, with school fees being considered as hire or reward where minibus transport is provided*.
*This is general information and as this legislation has not to our knowledge been tested in court, any organisations seeking further clarification should contact the DVLA
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