Reprieve for NI minibus drivers, but future uncertain

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Teachers in Northern Ireland given six months to obtain Driver CPC before rules preventing them from driving without it come into effect

After a ruling that minibus drivers in Northern Ireland will require Driver CPC, the country’s Government has granted a six month reprieve, with teachers expected to need a CPC qualification to drive a minibus from January 1, 2018, the BBC reported.

The Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) interpreted the law to mean many teachers could not continue to drive minibuses, though the Department for Infrastructure, which has responsibility for the DVA, has now said that the new interpretation and guidance on the law will not come into effect until at least January 1.

“The guidance is likely to confirm that paid drivers will no longer be able to drive a minibus on their D1 (not for hire or reward) driving licence, and that some volunteer drivers, undertaking commercial passenger transport activities, may also require a full D or D1 driving licence,” it said.

“Given recent concerns as to the impact of these changes on a number of sectors, the department can confirm that the draft guidance will only come into effect on approval by an incoming minister.

“Therefore, at present, those who drive a minibus for an organisation under the small bus permit scheme do not need a full D1 entitlement.”

Some school principals warned that the change will have huge implications for schools, and said they would have to hire cars, taxis and buses to fulfil sports fixtures or take field trips as a result. Principals also expressed concern that they would have to pay thousands of pounds to train teachers to obtain the Driver CPC qualification.

Previously, staff who held a licence that qualified them to drive a car would also have been able to drive a school minibus.

The revised guidance from the DVA will state that teachers must have a D1 licence and a driver’s qualification card to do so.

However, the new guidance from the DVA will only now come into effect on January 1, 2018, and then only if approved by an infrastructure minister. Therefore teachers, and others in paid employment, who currently drive school minibuses will be able to continue to drive them when the new school year begins in September.

CBW reached out to the Community Transport Association (CTA) to ask about implications for the CT sector. A CTA spokesperson told CBW: “Each Government has its own responsibility to work with the same piece of EU Legislation as they see fit and they have authority within their own jurisdiction to apply it.

“CTA works with members across NI and the rest of the UK, our role is not to comment, but to ensure our members are able to work safely and legally in their communities.”