Castle Minibus assists school transport managers in the management, compliance training, driver training and short and long term leasing of school transport vehicles.
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'A fly on the wall at Castle’s Minibus Compliance Course, Guildford
Castle Minibus and the ISBA launched the Minibus Compliance Course (MCC) in September 2018 and since then over 350 delegates, from over 300 schools have attended the course. We felt it was time to attend and see what happened on the course and get the feedback from the delegates there on the day, so we attended the Guildford course on 2nd April.
The MCC was developed by Castle in association with the ISBA and in consultation with Beverley Bell CBE, Former Senior Traffic Commissioner of Great Britain.
There were 11 delegates in the room with differing job descriptions from facilities manager to bursar to director of cricket. Only 2 out of the 11 delegates had transport in their titles, yet all were responsible for many vehicles and drivers. Regardless of the title a recurring message from the off was that someone in a school needs to be officially appointed as responsible for minibus and driver management.
Initially the delegates introduced themselves and were asked how many vehicles and drivers they were responsible for. This was because currently 12% of first-time applicants for the D1 are rejected because of poor eyesight and health. So, statistically there were around 70 drivers, driving the Guildford delegate’s vehicles, who would probably fail an eyesight or medical test if they were to apply for their D1 licence today. A sobering thought to start the day.
What were the delegates looking to get from the day?
The majority of the delegates were simply looking for clarity on the ‘fog’ of minibus compliance, one delegate was eager to look at teacher/driver hours as they’d noticed a correlation between vehicle damage and tired drivers and others felt they had had this role given to them and were seeking guidance and training.
1. The legal minefield
The course is split into four areas, the legal mine field being the first and covers Section 19 Permits and best-practice responsibilities of the ‘transport manager’.
2. The vehicles. Aren’t they just bigger cars?
Essentially no, but teachers and staff may forget the differences in driving a car to a minibus; height, width, speed restrictions, stopping distances, driving in adverse weather i.e. high winds. All these factors need to be considered and remembered to avoid accidents and to drive as safely as possible. Several of the delegates had had recent incidents of damage to their vehicle’s roofs where the drivers hadn’t recognised the height restrictions and driven into barriers. There was even an example given of a school whose insurance would only cover them to window height as they had had so many accidents involving the roof of the vehicle.
This section also includes a practical minibus check to identify the minimum requirements teachers should be checking before they drive as well as information on driver’s liabilities for defects such as a possible £2500 fine and 3 points per illegal tyre.
“the driver is always legally responsible for the condition of the vehicle while in use...” DVSA guide to maintaining roadworthiness.
This is in addition to the weekly or daily inspections completed by the Transport Manager (Castle offer a free app to help with this task) and the regular 10-week safety inspections, services and MOTs.
3. The Driver
Drivers are the biggest risk and this section took delegates through licences, training and assessments, what vehicles they can drive and if they can be paid. With regard to standard B car licences some delegates were concerned as they had light-weight minibuses being driven by standard B licence holders. The concern stems from the status of their teachers being volunteers, the trips not being for social purposes (a requirement of Section 19 Permit) and the need to confirm the weights and payloads of their vehicles, so they’re not unintentionally over-weight.
Although the presentation talks through the DVSA guidelines and Beverley Bell’s interpretation of them, the delegates own personal experiences and concerns makes for interesting wider discussions of real-life problems; such as a licence points policy, CCF (Combined Cadet Force) drivers, tired drivers and concerns over D1 licences.
4. The Journey
Effective planning for the journey including emergency procedures and proper planning for journeys factoring in breaks for teachers to help combat fatigue.
Interesting information came out in this section on the basics of journey planning such as the use of bus lanes for school minibuses and ideas for safety packs on board. Castle recommended a flashing beacon in the event of a motorway breakdown as it is illegal to set up a warning triangle on a motorway.
The ‘Green Light Assessment’ follow-up
Following this day’s course, once the schools have appointed a Transport Manager responsible for their vehicles and drivers, Castle will complete a ‘green light assessment’ to support each delegate on their school’s premises to help ensure and certify that they have everything in place should they face an inspection from the police or DVSA.
What were the things delegates are going to implement from the course?
Check the weight of our minibuses, loaded and unloaded
Ensure teachers are not driving tired and enforce breaks
Arrange 10-week safety inspections (6-weeks for 12 year+ vehicles)
Confirm driver’s responsibilities
Complete daily/weekly inspections using the free app
Review how often drivers are assessed
Check driver licences termly
Ensure any third party using our buses have their own Section 19 Permits
Review of all minibus policies and practises
Put height restriction notices in our minibuses
It was interesting to see the differing levels of compliance and knowledge there was in the room, from delegates worrying they needed to take their vehicles off the road because of weights and licences to delegates happy they’re compliant and now have a certificate to prove they’ve completed this training.
"10/10: At Licensed Victuallers School the safety of pupils and staff is always paramount, the Castle Minibus Compliance Course is a great way of ensuring that we are complying with all the relevant laws and regulations and therefore maintain our safety standards" – Tom Farrell, Transport Leader
For more information on Castle’s Minibus Compliance Course visit www.castleminibus.co.uk or call 01869 253744.
Feedback from the day
‘Good advice and gave me a lot to think about to improve the running of our minibus’ ‘Course has opened my eyes to all that is required of the post, something I was not aware of before’
‘Good practical advice on implementing a transport safety system’