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Greater Scrutiny on Section 19 Minibus Permit Applications

on Wednesday, 22 November 2017.

The regulations that govern school minibuses are complicated and the consequences for non-compliance can be incredibly serious.

In this article we review the requirements for academies in light of a stricter approach being adopted by the Department for Transport.

What Are The Consequences of Non-Compliance?

Drivers and Trusts can be prosecuted, vehicles impounded, and insurance policies voided.

Following the discovery of pockets of serious non-compliance, the Department for Transport has urged Local Authorities and other issuing bodies to exercise greater scrutiny before issuing or renewing permits.

Do Your Vehicles Need Licences?                                                       

If a vehicle is designed to carry 9 or more passengers (plus a driver) and is operated 'for hire or reward', the vehicle is defined as a 'public service vehicle' and the school will require either a PSV operator's licence or a section 19 permit.

A vehicle is used 'for hire or reward' even if payment is made indirectly (eg. bundled in the cost of a trip or extra-curricular activity), It does not matter whether or not the operator is a profit-making entity, so academies are caught by the regulations in certain circumstances.

If drivers are not voluntary and receive any remuneration other than out of pocket expenses, then a section 19 permit will be required. For example, if the terms and conditions of a teacher’s contract of employment state that driving minibuses is a part of their duties, or if a teacher is paid an additional sum specifically for driving the minibus, the school will require a section 19 permit.

The letter issued by the Department for Transport earlier this year has urged Local Authorities and other bodies to exercise greater scrutiny before issuing permits. We are aware that this has led to some schools facing additional questions and/or delays in the issuing of section 19 permits.  We expect a consultation on the topic to open soon.

Section 19 Permits

Academies can apply to their local traffic authority to obtain or renew one or more section 19 permits.

Only one vehicle may be driven on a permit at a time, but schools can have multiple permits if they wish. Standard permits allow the use of minibuses of up to 16 passengers. Large bus permits are also available.

A permit may not be used to carry members of the general public, or with a view to profit or incidental to an activity carried on with a view to profit. Permits may also have additional conditions imposed. Each permit is valid for five years.

We have had a number of queries from schools who have experienced greater scrutiny or delays obtaining or renewing their section 19 permits and schools should be aware that a renewal of their section 19 licence is unlikely to be issued without additional queries from the issuing authority and may take longer to be processed, varying from 5 working days in some areas to several weeks in others.

Further it is an offence to operate without valid section 19 permits in place and it is not possible to lawfully operate pending the issue of the licences. Schools should therefore apply for new permits or renewals in good time and should not operate without valid and in date permits in place.

Should you have any questions about this or any other minibus licensing issues relating to your school, please contact Natalie Wargent inon 0117 314 5433 or Sarah Thorley on 020 7665 0823 in our Academies team.

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