D1 or NOT D1 - That is the question !


During our many conversations and meetings with schools it is still evident that opinion is split about allowing members of staff without a D1 on their licence to drive a minibus.  Understandable when you appreciate the level of mis- information being perpetuated across the education sector.

I hope that we can de mystify some of this for you.

Let’s look at some of the basics.

A D1 category on the driving licence allows the holder to drive a vehicle capable of carrying 9-16 passengers.

Just to recap. Anyone who passed their driving test BEFORE 1st January 1997 will automatically have a D1 on their licence. This means that year on year there are more "YOUNGER" drivers within schools without D1. (Anyone 37 and under)

Can a minibus be driven without a D1?

Let’s look at the guidelines published on   www.gov.uk/ driving-a-minibus

“You might be able to drive a minibus if you hold a car driving licence and meet certain conditions - otherwise you’ll need to apply for a minibus licence.

If the minibus is not for ‘hire or reward’

You might be able to drive a minibus with up to 16 passenger seats using your current car driving licence as long as there’s no payment from or on behalf of the passengers (it’s not for ‘hire or reward’).

Conditions you must meet

You can drive a minibus within the UK as long as the following conditions apply:

  • you’re 21 or older
  • you’ve had your driving licence for at least 2 years
  • you meet the ‘Group 2’ medical standards if you’re over 70 - check with your GP if you’re not sure you meet the standards
  • you’re driving on a voluntary basis and the minibus is used for social purposes by a non-commercial body
  • the maximum weight of the minibus is not more than 3.5 tonnes - or 4.25 tonnes including specialist equipment for disabled passengers, for example a wheelchair ramp
  • you’re not towing a trailer “

If we look at some of these conditions in isolation

The weight issue is the first that needs exploring –  

The 3.5 tonnes they refer to is the gross vehicle weight – The maximum weight that the vehicle is allowed to operate at, including passengers, fuel and luggage etc.

Any vehicle being marketed as a 3.5 tonne vehicle for NON d1 purposes will probably be a maximum of 15 seats including the driver. When choosing such a vehicle the school should consider what the “available payload” is.

Very simply, the payload is the difference between the unladen weight of the vehicle and the gross vehicle weight

 Let’s look at an example of a 15 seat Peugeot/Citroen converted vehicle.

If you subtract the actual vehicle weight from the 3.5 t GVW allowance you are left with effectively only 7/8 stone average payload per seat (including the driver)

If you consider luggage or sports kit then you can see that in the case of secondary school students you will easily risk operating that vehicle as overweight.  ( We understand that dvsa have been trialling weight plate technology on the highway linked up to number plate recognition cameras.  This risks exposure to fixed penalty fines or dvsa spot checks to test the running weight of the vehicle)

This weight issue can be addressed in secondary schools / colleges either by reducing the number of seats - 14 including driver would be more comfortable.  Or you can create a very comfortable 17 seat minibus by using the increased weight allowable if the bus is adapted for occasional wheelchair use (removable rear seats and a lift or ramp) Ramps have been under scrutiny recently as they need to comply with tolerances to do with the angle of the slope (Channel ramps / portable ramps should be viewed with extreme caution)  

Voluntary Drivers

The weight issue albeit important is a bit of a red herring when looking at NON D1 driving.  It is the caveat (The driver is doing so on a voluntary basis) in the non D1 guidelines where I believe opinion is split and where the grey area really exists. 

 I always recommend schools take a cautious approach to the "voluntary driver” angle for the following reasons.

The fact that the member of staff is not being paid extra, that driving is not in their job description , that they may be driving in their "own" time does not make it driving on a voluntary basis.

The reason the derogation from the D1 requirement was created for the voluntary sector was to avoid penalising a younger driver who wanted to give their time up to help with a scout group, elderly group outings, cadets etc . This is clearly different from an employed teacher driving a class to a swimming session as part of their job.

The Road Traffic Act, when talking about driving for work uses two key words "cause and permit”. The very fact you have "allowed" the teacher/ caretaker/ classroom assistant to drive the pupils in a minibus creates an occupational driving responsibility between the two parties (the school - employer and the driver - employee.) The fact they are not being paid and it not being part of their job is irrelevant in the eyes of the law. 

Until there is a test case to define whether driving for a school, even when employed is classed as voluntary driving I believe that schools are operating at risk if they allow non D1 drivers to drive minibuses.

EVA Minibus tries to maintain a pragmatic approach and will supply any make, model and weight of bus. If a school decides to operate a bus that they want a non D1 driver to operate we will supply that vehicle on the basis the school is aware of the risks outlined above regarding weights and voluntary driving and that we strongly recommend a robust programme of driver training and assessments are undertaken too. 

John Couppleditch


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John Couppleditch