Bridle Blog

D1 or no D1? – That is the question.

Should NON D1 holders be allowed to drive a school minibus?


During conversations with schools it is still evident that opinion is split about allowing members of staff without a D1 to drive a minibus.


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


Those passing their driving test after 1st January 1997 will not have D1 on their licence. Year on year there are more drivers within schools without D1. (Anyone 40 and under).



Can a minibus be driven without a D1?


According to, 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’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.



Let’s focus on minibus weight.  


The 3.5 or 4.25 tonnes they refer to is the gross vehicle weight, which is to say the maximum weight that the vehicle is allowed to operate at, including passengers, fuel and luggage.


You should be mindful of available payload when operating a minibus. The payload is the difference between the unladen weight of the vehicle and the Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW).


4.25t GVW if fitted with wheelchair access equipment (removable seats, folding in board ramp, restraining harnesses) will give you a 17-seat bus capable of being driven without a D1 (In charitable organisations and state funded schools, academies etc.).


Payload for the 4.25t GVW is worked out as follows using DVSA guidelines on weight:


Example – New Spec 3 Peugeot Boxer L4 Lite to go


Unloaded Weight (ULW) 2687kg


+ 1x 75kg (driver)


+ 16 x 71kg (passengers)


= Total 3898kg, spare payload 352kg (GVW = 4250kg)



Beware of ANY 17-seat minibus with a gross vehicle weight of 3.8 tonnes – using the above formula, you can see how the available payload is dramatically reduced.


Unloaded Weight (ULW) 2687kg


+ 1 x 75kg (driver)


+ 16 x 71kg passengers


= Total 3998kg, spare payload -198kg (GVW = 3800kg).


This minibus would be overweight by 198kg without any luggage and assuming none of the passengers or drivers exceed weight guidelines for passengers. Driving overweight will lead to prosecution, fines and reputational damage.



Now let’s concentrate on the Voluntary Driver condition.


Schools must take a cautious approach to the “voluntary driver” angle for the following reasons.


The fact that the member of staff is not being paid specifically for driving the minibus and 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 derogation from the D1 requirement was created to avoid penalising NON D1 holders who wanted to give their time for a charity group. This is different from an employed teacher driving students to a fixture as part of their job.


The Road Traffic Act, uses two key words: “cause and permit”. The fact you have “allowed” the school employee to drive the minibus creates an occupational driving relationship between the school and the driver.


Until there is a test case to define whether driving for a school – even when employed – is classed as voluntary, we believe that schools need to be aware of the risks if they allow non D1 drivers to drive minibuses.


Bridle Minibus are happy to supply NON D1 vehicles to schools providing the school is robustly managing all aspects of minibus compliance and risk. (We can help with this).


John Couppleditch

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