Who Says Teachers Need a D1 License to Drive a Minibus

This guide was updated in March 2024 to include relevant updates and internal and external links.

Originally featured in the May 2020 edition of The Independent Schools Magazine, Castle Minibus (now Rivervale) shared the research and opinions of various authorities on whether teachers/school staff need D1 entitlement to drive a 8+ seater minibus, regardless of weight.

The issue centres around teachers as ‘volunteer’ drivers and if they can be considered as such because they are driving for their employers. They are expected to uphold all other professional standards whilst driving, despite now being classed a ‘volunteer’.

There is ambiguity surrounding the guidance and there is no definitive legal advice. All sources, including Rivervale and the DVSA, will recommend seeking specialist legal advice if you have concerns.

Why the law changed in 1997

The UK was the only EU country that made exceptions to needing D1 entitlement to drive a minibus when the law was changed in 1997, following a tragic school minibus accident in 1993 that killed 11 pupils and their teacher. D1 entitlement was no longer included on a licence issued after 1 January 1997. The UK made an exception to needing D1 entitlement to ‘protect’ the voluntary sector and introduced the Section 19 Permit, to regulate this sector.

Organisations, including schools, that have charitable status or are not-for-profit and run their minibus operation at cost, can apply for a Section 19 Permit which means they can charge for their operations and pay their drivers. But they don’t have to have a full time Transport Manager and drivers with the full D1 licence and CPC training – required under an Operator’s Licence.

Some drivers will have the inherited D1 (101) entitlement but drivers who passed their test after 1 January 1997 will not, they will hold what is known as the standard category B car licence.

To allow the voluntary sector to drive minibuses without D1 entitlement, the Section 19 Permit guidelines state ‘Category B entitles them to drive a small bus but only if all of the following conditions are met:

  1. they have held a full category B car licence for at least 2 years
  2. they receive no payment or other consideration for driving other than out-of-pocket expenses
  3. the vehicle has a maximum gross weight not exceeding 3.5 tonnes (4.25 tonnes including specialised equipment for the carriage of disabled passengers)
  4. for drivers aged 70 or over, that they don’t have any medical conditions which would disqualify them from eligibility for a D1 licence
  5. no trailer is being towed
  6. where the driver’s licence only authorises the driving of vehicles with automatic transmission, that only a vehicle with automatic transmission is used’


Driving vehicles under 3500kg

Minibuses that are 3.5 tonnes or under can be driven on a standard car licence provided the conditions above are met. Relying on the weight of the vehicle to drive on a standard B licence means schools need to be sure they understand the weights of their vehicles, their allowances and what payload (passengers and luggage) will take them overweight.

Are teachers/school staff driving minibuses doing so for no payment or other consideration?

One of the conditions under the Section 19 Permit for driving on a category B licence (as well as vehicle weight) is ‘they receive no payment or other consideration for driving’

Are teachers/school staff who are driving minibuses doing so for ‘no payment or other consideration’. The government gives no definitive answer on this matter. 

The DVSA does give some clarification on what it considers to be not for reward or hire with the caveat that

‘this advice does not constitute legal advice nor is it a ruling on the law: individual, schools etc should seek independent legal advice on these issues if they have any queries or concerns’

‘A minibus is not being used for hire or reward… where the pupils are not obliged to pay in exchange for the right to be passengers. This applies where independent schools with charitable status, free schools and academies use a minibus not for a passenger service on a commercial basis but to take pupils off-site for trips within the school day or as an extra-curricular activity, where the pupils do not pay for their transport.

‘In our view, if a teacher’s contract of employment does not state that driving minibuses is part of their duties and they receive no additional payment for driving a minibus to take pupils on trips or to social sporting events (except for reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses), they will be driving on an extra-contractual, voluntary basis. In this case, the category B licence would suffice.

‘We consider social purposes to mean non-commercial activities. This includes school trips and travel to sporting fixtures within the school day or as an extra-curricular activity.’

Read the full guidance here (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/driving-school-minibuses-advice-for-schools-and-local-authorities/driving-school-minibuses-advice-for-schools-and-local-authorities)

As the DVSA advises seeking specialist advice, that is what Rivervale did in 2020. We consulted a specialist transport solicitor who informed us that in their opinion:

‘teachers who are driving on behalf of their employers, even if they ‘volunteer’ to do so are considered to be driving for payment as part of their employment. It is not enough that driving is not specified in their contract. ‘Other consideration’ could also be applied if teachers are ‘volunteering’ for extra-curricular activities that include driving a minibus to improve their chances of promotion, their standing within the school or enhance their CV.’

Other county councils including Hertfordshire and Northumberland have been given similar advice and published it.

‘If you drive for your employer, your licence must include category D1. This includes teachers and school staff, during the school day or out of hours. That’s because you’re at work, being paid and your journeys are official business.

‘There is an exemption for volunteers without D1 on their licence. However, our legal advice is that this exemption does not apply to teachers and school staff.’


Northumberland County Council

‘We insist that all drivers employed by Northumberland County Council hold category D1 minibus entitlement on their driving licence. Although there are circumstances where the law allows drivers in the voluntary sector to drive on a car licence (category B), the Freight Transport Association advise that the exemption does not apply to school teachers nor anyone else driving in the course of their paid employment. This is regardless of whether their contract of employment requires them to drive.’


NASWUT National Union of Teachers

‘Whether a teacher may be deemed to be driving a minibus for hire and reward because they are being paid a salary as a teacher is unclear, and advice on this point is contradictory, except in Northern Ireland.

‘The NASUWT strongly asserts that, particularly but not exclusively due to the ambiguity around the hire/reward status, the full D1 licence is the minimum requirement, and a car licence is insufficient in all circumstances. If schools wish to train minibus drivers to D1 level, the costs of any training and testing for the D1 licence must be covered in full by the employer.’


In Summary

This issue has never been tested in court and as you can see there is conflicting advice as to whether teachers should be driving minibuses because of the ambiguity surrounding their status as volunteer drivers.

Rivervale is doing what we can to educate schools on minibus management and compliance with our Online Minibus Management Course so organisations operating under a Section 19 Permit are aware of the issues and can make informed decisions.

If you feel that your organisation and journeys fit with the DVSA’s criteria then you may decide that a B licence is sufficient, but if you have any concerns, we recommend you seek specialist legal advice from a solicitor or your teacher’s union or further clarity from the DVSA.

Rivervale provide D1 driver training, MiDAS, the Minibus Management Course, Minibus Safety Inspections and a range of service to help you manage your minibuses and drivers. Please do give us a call on 01896 253744 or email minibus@rivervale.co.uk to find out more.

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