July 24, 2017
Teachers in Northern Ireland may have to pass a test in order to continue driving their school’s minibus, the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) has said. Currently under the small bus permit scheme teachers don’t need a full D1 licence to drive a minibus for education purposes. However it’s expected all teachers will need a Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) qualification from 1 January 2018.
The Education Authority in Northern Ireland has said this change is due to a DVA legal interpretation. The DVA has confirmed that the new interpretation and guidance on the law will not come into effect until at least next year and only if it’s approved by an infrastructure minister. Due to the country’s failure to form a government there’s no infrastructure minister at present.
“It’s imperative schools are satisfied that the relevant criteria has been met before authorising employees to drive a minibus.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Infrastructure said: “The guidance is likely to confirm that paid drivers will no longer be able to drive a minibus on their normal driving licence, and that some volunteer drivers, undertaking commercial passenger transport activities, may also require a full D or D1 driving licence.”
“Given recent concerns as to the impact of these changes on a number of sectors, the department can confirm that the draft guidance will only come into effect on approval by an incoming minister. Therefore, at present, those who drive a minibus for an organisation under the small bus permit scheme don’t need a full D1 entitlement.”
Experts have warned the change could have huge implications for schools. They may have to hire vehicles to fulfil sports fixtures or take field trips as a result and their current school minibuses may become unusable. Principals also expressed concern that they would have to pay thousands of pounds to train teachers to obtain the driver CPC qualification.
The Education Authority commented: “If the criteria can’t be met, any journey undertaken by staff won’t be considered legal and may leave the driver and the employer facing prosecution and penalties. It’s imperative schools are satisfied that the relevant criteria has been met before authorising employees to drive a minibus.”
Should the legislation come into force, there are options for schools to avoid the cost of extra training. A lightweight minibus falls under the 3,500kg weight limit which means it can be driven on any licence. Flexilite™ from Allied Fleet can be driven by anyone with a full UK driving licence thanks to innovative engineering. Lightweight materials are used to bring the vehicle weight down without affecting the carrying capacity so it’s an ideal solution for schools.