‘Lightweight minibuses can be driven by standard

drivers, without the need to spend time and money acquiring a D1 licence’

but also freezes the charges at today’s level, leaving you unaffected by things like rising labour rates, unexpected repairs or the cost of replacement tyres. At the end of the contract, the

vehicle is returned to the contract hire company, meaning that you have no worries of disposal or risk of residual value as you would if you owned the vehicle. This also leaves you free to take advantage of changes in technology and specifi cation of a new vehicle on a new contract. It’s important to point out that,

as the vehicle remains the property of the contract hire company, you’ll need to abide by the contract terms and conditions including standards of care. Then, when it’s time to hand the vehicle back it needs to be within mileage and in a condition that is comparable for its age and mileage to avoid any additional charges.

Beyond finance Choosing the right fi nance is important but getting the right vehicle for your pupils’ needs must always come fi rst. This means understanding all the possible customisations, such as conversions for wheelchair access and carrying specialist equipment, as well as evaluating how any variations to the standard specifi cation are likely to affect the cost of fi nancing the vehicle, the resale value and any relevant legislation.

Lightweight minibuses There has been a lot of debate recently about the suitability of lightweight minibuses for schools and colleges, especially among providers who don’t currently offer them. So, what’s the issue? Lightweight minibuses are made

with the latest, often recycled, materials and can therefore offer fuel savings and a reduction in carbon footprint. Their reduced weight also means they can be driven by standard drivers, without the need to spend time and money acquiring a D1 licence. In this case, a Minibus Driver

Awareness Scheme (MiDAS) driver course is recommended to ensure the safety of everyone involved and it is also important to remember that without a D1 licence the vehicle must remain under 3.5 tonnes fully loaded (excluding any specialist equipment for disabled passengers). Some have claimed that teachers

require a D1 licence to drive a minibus, but this is simply not true. If it were, it would be illegal for the leasing company to supply them to organisations with no appropriately qualifi ed drivers. In fact, even the critics admit that there is no actual case law to back up their claims. Above all, it’s about the suitability

of the vehicle to your organisation’s needs. If a lightweight minibus fi ts those needs, they are clearly worthy of careful consideration.


■ How many seats do you need? ■ Do you have any specialist requirements (for students or equipment)? ■ Will you need any livery? ■ Are your drivers adequately qualified and trained? ■ Will you take the vehicle overseas? ■ How many miles will you drive each year? ■ Which type of finance will deliver the lowest whole-life cost?

Putting it all together So, is it time to think again? Minibuses are essential for supporting learning outside the classroom, but only if they are a perfect fi t for your needs, budget and circumstances. It’s important to work with a partner that’s independ ent of manufacturers, dealers and fi nance companies. One that understands the needs of students and teachers alike and is capable of working with you to ensure legislative compliance, while reducing risk, controlling cost and protecting the environment.

Lorraine Shaw heads up the School Minibus Company, which, as a leading supplier of minibuses to schools, colleges and universities, helps organisations reduce costs while improving safety and efficiency. For more information, visit

FundEd SPRING 2019 53


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