News

End of the road for minibuses?

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

THE Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) is to enforce new restrictions on drivers of minibuses.

However, the news has been met with anger and confusion due to the seemingly technical nature of the clause, resulting in schools and local bus companies having to stop school trips and driving jobs are being threatened.

The issue surrounds the D1 classification on driving licences which some motorists have on their licence due to 'grandfather rights' if they passed their test before 1 January 1997.

This would have given permission for them to drive a minibus not for hire or reward (NFHR), with this appearing on their licences.

Motorists who do not have this D1 category on their licence could still drive a minibus with restrictions, provided they met the criteria.

The new guidance from DVA states anyone who is driving a minibus must now pass a D1 test and have a driver's qualification card.

However, the DVA just last week issued a temporary reprieve. Teachers can continue driving minibuses for at least six months without the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) qualification until the situation is clarified.

The Education Authority issued a letter to school principals on the new position.

The current definition of category D1 in relation to a minibus is: "Any motor vehicle designed and constructed for the carriage of no more than 16 passengers in addition to the driver, with a maximum length not exceeding eight metres and including such a vehicle drawing a trailer having a maximum authorised mass not exceeding 750 kilograms." However, the new position relating to driver licence requirements for those who drive a minibus in connection with their employment, is as follows: "All driving of a minibus in connection with employment, irrespective as to whether it is incidental or integral to the employment, i.e whether driving duties are outlined on a job description or not, must be undertaken by a driver who holds a D1 licence by test and a driver's qualification card".

The impact of this will be widely felt both on a practical level and financially.

Previously school staff who were able to drive a school minibus will now not be allowed to, resulting in a cost to schools to either hire in a bus or incur the cost of training up a member of staff.

Similarly, a local bus company will have to pay for their staff members to complete the training and test to enable them to be fully legal to drive.

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