Minibuses are an important and flexible part of your fleet. They allow your diverse residents to access a wide range of local government services. But the procurement process can be daunting and complicated. There are a number of legal requirements and decisions to make - from the vehicle’s specification to licensing. Crown Commercial Service is here to help you source a minibus that meets your needs.
Getting the right licence
First things first. You will need a driver who is legally permitted to drive the minibus. The driver must be at least 21-years-old and have held a driving licence for two or more years.
Drivers who passed their test before 1 January 1997 can drive any 9- to 17-seater minibus, of any legal weight without an additional permit. But the rules are different for those who passed after 1 January 1997. They can only drive a minibus with up to eight passenger seats. And those drivers will need to pass an additional test, or apply for a special minibus permit. You can find out more about minibus licences on the government website.
Room for everyone
Your new minibus must be fit for purpose - with room for everyone and everything you need to transport. Firstly, make sure you select a minibus with an adequate gross vehicle weight (GVW).
The standard GVW for a minibus is 3,500 kilograms and this increases to 4,250 kilograms if you transport specialist accessibility equipment. If you are travelling with heavy equipment and/or your passengers are adults, you may need a larger minibus with a higher GVW.
Your next big decision is the vehicle’s capacity. A minibus can carry between nine and 17 people, including the driver. But flexibility is a key feature of the minibus. And this is particularly important for community transport where you may need space for wheelchair users, or the facility to remove or adjust seats.
Your vehicle must always meet the needs of passengers. If they are adults, or teenagers, you may want a high-roof minibus. And if passengers use wheelchairs, you will need a lift at the rear of the vehicle, or a removable wheelchair ramp, with wheelchair tracks.
You may also want additional storage in the minibus if passengers are likely to carry large equipment. Or you may choose seating and flooring that is hard wearing or has particular hygienic qualities - again, depending on your passengers’ needs.
Safety is key and you will be legally responsible for the safety of the minibus. If the minibus is less than 12-years-old, a technically-competent person must carry out a regular in-depth safety inspection every 10-weeks. This increases to every 6-weeks if the minibus is more than 12-years old. And if your minibus has wheelchair access, then additional safety checks will be necessary. You must also carry out a daily pre-use walk-around to check the functionality of lights, tyres etc.
These checks and inspections are your legal responsibility but you may be able to outsource some of them to a lease provider, or build them into your manufacturer’s support package. This option may be beneficial where the driver works in social care or education but does not have specialist experience in vehicle care.
You can find out more information about your legal responsibilities on the government website.
Your route to market
Once you have a clear idea of your needs, you will be ready to progress to the next stage and select your preferred route to market. If you are building a minibus you will need the services of a minibus converter. Converters often specialise in modifications such as wheelchair accessibility, storage or premium upgrades.
You can select a manufacturer’s base vehicle and instruct the manufacturer to work with a converter to build your minibus. But, if you prefer, you can select your own vehicle base and work with a converter directly.
You can choose to buy your minibus outright or sign a lease for two or more years. But if you do not want a long commitment you can, simply, rent a minibus for any length of time - from one single day to 12 months. When procuring a minibus there is a lot to consider. But you will want to make sure that your residents and service users fully benefit from the adaptable features available in this most flexible of vehicles. And, whatever your needs and whichever procurement option you choose, Crown Commercial Service is here to help.
Power to your procurement
Crown Commercial Service can offer multiple routes to market for minibus procurement - from purchase or long-term leasing to short-term rental.
Find out how you can buy, lease or rent a minibus - with information from Fleet Acquire solutions at Crown Commercial Service.
Matilda Wormald is Commercial Fast Streamer – Fleet Crown Commercial Service.