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Minibus Driving Licence Information


Minibus Driving Licence Information

What is a minibus?

A minibus is a passenger carrying vehicle with a minimum of 9 and a maximum of 16 passenger seats (plus the driver's seat).

Driving a Minibus – Licence Entitlement

Driving licence held before 1 January 1997

If you check your licence you should find that it usually shows entitlement to drive Category D1 - this means you can drive a minibus with up to 16 passenger seats without needing an additional driving test. You should also find a code printed next to this on your licence (101) which means 'not for hire or reward'



Minimum age


Vehicles with a minimum of nine and a maximum of 16 passenger seats, with or without a trailer - weighing no more than 750 kg



As category D1 but with a trailer over 750 kg. The total weight of the vehicle and the trailer together can’t weigh more than 12,000 kg. The weight of the trailer, when fully loaded, can’t weigh more than the unladen weight of the vehicle



Not for hire or reward

Hire or reward generally means any payment in cash or kind made by or on behalf of passengers that gives them right to be carried in a vehicle.

This means you must not drive the vehicle if a fare or charge is made for the service, eg: a local bus service or even a minibus provided as a courtesy by a hotel could be interpreted as hire or reward.

To drive a minibus for hire and reward a driver must hold a vocational D1 passenger carrying vehicle licence (PCV) and will need to undertake an additional driving test via the Driving Standards Agency.

Driving licence held after 1 January 1997

If you check your licence you will notice that you do not have category D1 and therefore cannot drive a minibus without taking the additional driving test.

However, holders of a full category B (car) driving licence may drive a minibus with up to 16 passenger seats provided all the following conditions are met:

  • the vehicle is used for social purposes by a non-commercial body but not for hire or reward;
  • the driver is aged 21;
  • the driver has held a car (category B) licence for at least 2 years;
  • the driver is providing the service on a voluntary basis;
  • the minibus maximum weight is not more than 3.5 tonnes (or 4.25 tonnes including any specialist equipment for the carriage of disabled passengers);
  • if the driver is aged 70 or over, is able to meet the health standards for driving a D1 vehicle.

When driving a minibus under these conditions you may not receive any payment or consideration for doing so other than out of pocket expenses or tow any size trailer; you may only drive minibuses in this country. Drivers aged 70 or over will need to make a special application, which involves meeting higher medical standards.

'Section 19' - Small Bus Permit Scheme

Certain organisations can apply for a Minibus Permit, (Section 19 -Transport Act 1985) for vehicles that can carry between nine and sixteen passengers. The permit allows organistations like volunteer groups concerned with education, religion, social welfare, recreations and other activities that are beneficial to the community to make a charge without having to comply with the full passenger carrying vehicle entitlement (PCV) operator licensing requirements and without the need for their drivers to have PCV entitlement. It should be noted however, that volunteer minibus drivers who passed their car driving test after 1 January 1997 are restricted to drive minibuses which weigh no more that 3500kg gross vehicle weight. Section 19 permits have a life span of 5 years and must be renewed accordingly.

If no charge is made for the use of the bus at all, no permit is required. However, the word 'charge' covers more than just the payment of a fare. Any payment which directly or indirectly gives a person a right to be carried on the vehicle (the legal term for this is 'Hire or Reward') would require the operator to hold either a Section 19 Permit or PSV Operator's Licence.

Payment can:

  • be made by the person themselves or by someone else on their behalf;
  • be direct (for example, a fare); or
  • be indirect (for example, a subscription membership, payment for a hotel room or an admission charge - where, without the 'right to be carried' on the vehicle, they would not be able to use the hotel or reach the place for which they had paid admission).

Additional Information:

  • Any non-profit making body concerned with education, religion, social welfare, recreation or other activities of benefit to the community can apply for a permit.
  • A Small Bus Permit can be issued for vehicles able to carry 9-16 passengers excluding the driver.
  • It is not necessarily the owner of a vehicle that is required to obtain a Section 19 permit, but the user.
  • A Section 19 permit is available from a Traffic Area Office or your Local Authority licencing department.
  • For each permit granted, a disc will be issued which must be displayed on the inside windscreen of the vehicle.
  • Only one vehicle can be operated under each permit, but the disc can be moved from one vehicle to another.
  • If a school or organisation hires or lends the vehicle to another non-profit making body, they cannot use the school's permit, but must operate the vehicle under their own permit and disc.
  • All permit bus drivers MUST be aged 21 or over.
  • The permit system only applies to journeys entirely within the UK. The business of taking minibuses abroad is highly complex; organsations contemplating this are advised to seek legal advise for more information.


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