Particularly when driving groups of young children to and from school or on school trips, it’s incredibly important to ensure your vehicle is not only maintained to a high standard, but all drivers receive the proper training, the right permits are in place, and any specific health & safety procedures are adhered to during every journey.
So, to arm you with all the information you need to drive and maintain a school minibus with the utmost safety for both you and your passengers, we’ve created this; school minibuses - a safety guide.
School minibuses - a safety guide
The driver is personally responsible for the vehicle.
If you or anyone within your organisation volunteers to drive a school minibus, it’s really important to remember that you - or whoever is driving it at the time - are personally responsible for its overall roadworthiness whenever you’re behind the wheel.
This means that if for any reason you stopped by police on a journey and they deem the vehicle to be defective in any way, you are held personally accountable as the driver.
Depending on the severity of the issue, this could mean anything from a personal warning or fine to points on your licence or even prosecution. Therefore, it’s really important that whoever is driving the vehicle takes a moment before setting off on each journey to carry out the necessary safety checks to ensure the vehicle is in full working order.
Gain comprehensive cover for all uses.
Whether you have a company car, a coach, a minibus or a vehicle strictly for personal use, they all have one thing in common - insurance. Insurance is such an important part of owning any vehicle, and a school minibus is no different.
To drive a school minibus, you need comprehensive cover that covers all uses of the minibus, including; every individual allowed to drive the minibus, the total maximum number of passengers able to travel on the minibus, and a weight of said passengers.
Don’t afraid to get granular this your insurance policy - have those conversations with your provider and ensure you have every eventuality covered. If something happens that you’re not covered for, you’re responsible.
Drivers need training
Ensure all drivers receive basic training.
Anyone driving a school minibus needs proper training, even if you have a wealth of experience.
This training needs to include:
- Familiarisation with a vehicle
- Basic checks that need to be carried out before each journey
- Loading & unloading the vehicle
- Securing wheelchairs
- A use of seat belts & harnesses
- Planning a journey and assessing the road
- Any emergency procedures
- Use of passenger lift (if required)
- Caring for passengers
Permits and legal documents
Check whether you need a Section 19 permit.
If minibus journeys are funded to an extent by external sources, such as parents, PTAs or maybe a charity or generous local business, you’ll need to acquire a minibus & community bus permit, often referred to as a Section 19 permit.
A Section 19 permit is specifically for organisations concerned with education, welfare or activities benefiting a community and they allow organisations to make a charge without the need for a driver to have a PCV (D1 or D) entitlement. This applies to a UK only.
Accessibility and passenger care
Allow for a safe and comfortable journey for everyone.
School minibuses need to be accessible; meaning that anyone using a vehicle with any type of mobility impairment should be able to get on & off the bus, sit on the bus and use any facilities on a bus comfortably and safely.
This means ensuring that things like allowing adequate space for wheelchairs, harnesses for securing wheelchairs, and passenger lifts are all in place wherever necessary.
Alongside this, when embarking on journeys with SEN children, it’s really important that at least 2 members of staff are on hand in a vehicle, as well as a driver, to ensure a driver remains free from distraction and all passengers remain calm & comfortable throughout.
There’s more to driving licences than you think!
We might be teaching you to suck eggs here but no school minibuses - a safety guide would be complete without stressing the importance of a driver having a full, clean driving licence.
However, whilst you probably know this, what you may not know is that drivers must also:
- Be at least 21 years old
- Have a Section 19 permit (if required)
- Be insured to drive a vehicle in question
- Have a full driving licence for at least 2 years when driving with a Section 19 permit
- Not drive a minibus with more than 16 passenger seats
As a side note, it’s also useful to know that if you passed your driving test before 1st January 1997, you would have automatically gained Category B & D1 entitlements, qualifying you to drive minibuses.
Of course, there’s more we could say about school minibuses and a importance of, not only your passengers remaining safe during each journey, but also your drivers, as well as safeguarding a reputation of your school.
However, for now we’ll leave you with this final thought on school minibuses - a safety guide:
You can never be too careful.
Ensure any school minibus you invest in is of an exceptional quality, conversions meet your unique requirements, and a vehicle is regularly serviced.
To talk to us about what you need from a school minibus, contact us today.