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"Our minibus is absolutely amazing. We`ve starting picking up and returning children who live a long way away. And of course it`s publicity for us when we are out and about. I wish we could have got one ages ago."

Linda Bradley, Byker Primary School

Section 19

Leasing a minibus, or contract hire means you pay fixed monthly agreed charges (or payments) over a two, three, four or five year period and then return the vehicle at the end the contract.

There are three types of permit/licence educational establishments can apply for, a full operational license, a restricted operational license or a Section 19 permit, and it can be confusing to know which one you need. Castle can in effect be your transport manager as we are experts in the legalities and obligations of school minibuses.

In Summary

Organisations that provide transport on a ‘not-for-profit’ basis can apply for permits under Section 19 or Section 22 of the Transport Act 1985. These permits allow the holder to operate transport services for hire or reward without the need for a full public service vehicle (PSV) operator’s licence.

Permits issued under Section 19 relate to the use of vehicles by educational and other bodies.

Section 19 permits are either:

Standard permits

for vehicles which are adapted to carry no more than 16 passengers (excluding the driver)


Large bus permits

for vehicles which are adapted to carry 17 or more passengers. These permits may be granted to organisations that operate vehicles without a view to profit to transport their members, or people whom the organisation exists to help.

As a permit holder, it is your responsibility to make sure that your services are operated within the law, with vehicles properly maintained and using drivers with the appropriate qualifications.

Section 19 - Guide

This summary is a simple guide, not legal advice. You can read more information here, the Government’s website on Section 19 permits, or you can call our helpful staff on 01869 253744 or email enquiries@castleminibus.co.uk, who will advise you on the right permit and how to apply.

Section 19 permit vehicles can’t be used to carry members of the general public.

A permit isn’t specific to one vehicle, so the holder of the permit can transfer it between different vehicles. But a permit can only be used on one vehicle at a time. An organisation can hold more than one permit. The correct disc must be displayed in the vehicle.

Without a view to profit (‘not-for-profit’)

A vehicle being used under a permit must not be used with a view to profit nor incidentally to an activity which is itself carried on for profit.

A charity would normally be considered to be a ‘not-for-profit’ organisation. In England and Wales charities may be registered with the Charity Commission, and in Scotland with the Office of the Scottish Regulator, but not all charities are registered. Your organisation should have a registration number, which you quote on the application form if it is registered. An organisation doesn’t have to have charitable status to meet the ‘not-for-profit’ requirement. Societies, clubs and social enterprises whose primary purpose is the provision of services for its members or the local community, and not to make a profit, may also come within this definition.

Commercial organisations

Commercial organisations, including privately owned schools, nursing homes, activity centres are not eligible to be granted a permit. Also, where the permit holder provides transport services on behalf of another organisation (e.g. the permit holder is a separate legal entity formed to provide transport services for another organisation), that other organisation must also not carry on its activities with a view to profit.

The law on the meaning of vehicles being used incidentally to an activity carried on for profit has been considered by the courts. In that case the permit holder was a company established for the sole purpose of providing transport services for five independent schools owned by a partnership, and was a separate legal entity from that partnership. The court held that, whilst the permit holder did not operate with a view to a profit, the partnership did, and the permit holder was therefore using the vehicle incidentally to an activity which was carried on with a view to profit. The permit holder was not therefore eligible to operate those services under a Section 19 permit.

For example, a charity won’t be operating for profit if it runs a minibus from sheltered accommodation to the local supermarket. But, if the supermarket offered to pay for the service, this service would be operated incidental to an activity which in itself is carried on with a view to profit, i.e. the supermarket. This wouldn’t be allowed under a permit.

Safety, licensing and vehicle maintenance

As a permit holder you’re responsible for ensuring the safe operation of your vehicles, within the legal requirements and under a valid permit. You should ensure that:

  • your drivers are suitably trained and correctly licensed
  • your drivers take appropriate breaks
  • your vehicles satisfy the appropriate construction and use requirements, and are maintained in a safe and roadworthy condition
  • your vehicles are insured and your insurer is aware that your vehicles are used to provide services for hire or reward under a permit
  • the vehicle isn’t operated with a view to profit, nor incidentally to an activity which is itself carried on with a view to profit
  • you only carry the class(es) of passengers allowed by the permit and, in the case of Section 19, you don’t provide any transport services that could be viewed to be carrying the general public
  • you inform the DVSA or the designated body that issued your permit of any changes such as the change of name of your organisation, as this means that your permit needs to be replaced.

Driver licensing

The vehicle’s driver must hold the appropriate category of entitlement on their driving licence.

Driver fatigue

All drivers should be aware of the risk to passenger safety from driving when tired. It’s not sensible to start a long trip after a full day’s work, whether that work involves driving or not. Breaks should be built into journey planning - aim to have a break from driving of at least 15 minutes every 2 hours. If driving under EU rules a break of at least 45 minutes after 4 and a half hours of driving is required. A break of at least 30 minutes is required after 5 and a half hours of driving, if driving under domestic drivers’ hours’ rules.

Vehicle maintenance

Vehicles operated under a permit are still public service vehicles and subject to spot checks by DVSA examiners as to their roadworthiness.

You must ensure all vehicles have regular maintenance/safety inspections.

It’s also advisable to carry out a walk-around check every time the vehicle is used.

A prohibition notice could be issued to prevent it being driven if the vehicle is found to be unfit. Failure to obey such a notice is against the law and could lead to a heavy fine.

Recommended maintenance arrangements are described in Annex 2. DVSA recommend that inspections are carried out at least every 10 weeks.

Road safety is most important. It’s essential that any vehicle you use is in a roadworthy condition. Failure to maintain your vehicle adequately could lead to your permit being revoked or other penalties being imposed.


A vehicle operated under a permit must be covered by third party insurance - which also covers the passengers being carried in the vehicle.

You need to tell your insurer that you’ll be receiving payment from passengers (operating for ‘hire or reward’), but that you’re exempt from the requirement to have a PSV operator’s licence or a PHV licence because you’re operating under a permit. It’s your responsibility to check with your insurer that your policy covers the services you’re providing.

This also applies to small vehicles being used under a Section 19 permit. Permit holders who use small vehicles must inform their insurers that the vehicle is being operated for hire or reward but that it’s exempt from PSV operator licensing.

Once a permit has been issued

Lost permits and discs

Your permit and disc are important documents and should be kept safe. You should notify whoever issued it and ask for a replacement if a permit is lost or destroyed (or becomes defaced or faded). The original must be returned to the issuing body immediately if you later find it.

A faded or defaced disc should be returned with the corresponding permit (and vice versa) so that a new permit and disc may be issued. Replacement permits will be valid for a period not exceeding 5 years and the expiry date will be stated on the returned documents. You may be charged for replacements if you don’t return the corresponding permit or disc with the faded or defaced document.

You must not overwrite the details if a disc or permit fades. The permit and disc must be returned to the issuing body for replacement.

Going abroad

The permit system only applies to journeys wholly within GB and Northern Ireland. Permits aren’t valid outside of GB and Northern Ireland.

Application fees

There is a fee payable with the application. Castle Minibus will help you apply for your Section 19 permit and ensure you’re paying the right fees on application.

How many permits can I apply for?

You can apply for as many permits as you need. You need a permit for every vehicle that you’ll be operating at any one time. Each vehicle must display the disc that relates to the permit in the windscreen. For example, if you want to operate three vehicles at the same time, you must have three permits. You can apply for more than one permit on an application form. You can apply for more permits at any time, if your needs change and you want to operate more vehicles.

Standard permits

A standard permit is normally issued to a specific group (e.g. a scout group). A permit may be issued to a named individual on behalf of a body which he or she represents if it seems to the issuing body to be appropriate. This might be appropriate with an informal group which has no separate legal entity, such as a local swimming group. Such an application will need to be supported with the following information:

  • the name of the body or group on whose behalf you’re applying
  • an explanation as to the why the body or group is not applying for the permit
  • your relationship to the body or group
  • what the body or group does, what group of people they assist
  • additional information as may be required by the traffic commissioner or designated body
  • A permit granted to an individual is treated as having been granted to the body which that person represents.

Grant of your application

You’ll receive a permit which will have a unique serial number and a corresponding disc with the same number if your application is granted. You should remove the disc and place it in the windscreen of the vehicle to be used. It must be fixed to the inside of the windscreen so that it can be easily seen from outside the vehicle but does not obstruct the driver’s view.

You may be issued with more than one permit and each permit will have a corresponding disc. The permits and discs are not vehicle specific and you may therefore move a disc from one vehicle to another. Each vehicle must display a valid disc when it is being used under the Section 19 permit system. You can’t use more than one vehicle at any time under the same permit.

Standard permits authorise the use of vehicles adapted to carry not more than 16 passengers. They can’t be used in larger vehicles. Large bus permits authorise the use of vehicles adapted to carry 17 or more passengers. They can’t be used in smaller vehicles.

For each vehicle used under a permit, the corresponding disc must be displayed in the windscreen.

Validity period

Permits and discs granted on or after 6th April 2009 will have an expiry date and will be valid for a maximum of 5 years. Permits and discs granted before 6th April 2009 don’t have an expiry date and will remain in force until further notice.

Conditions and revocation

Permits may be revoked (taken away), new conditions may be attached and existing conditions varied at any time by the body that issued them or by a traffic commissioner. The traffic commissioner must first consult that body before varying or revoking a permit, if a permit was issued by a designated body.

Permits cease to be valid if the designated body that issued them ceases to be designated. In that case the permit holders should apply to the traffic commissioner or, where appropriate, another designated body, for a permit. A charge may be payable in these circumstances.

Where a designated body has issued a permit to a member group and that group subsequently ceases to be a member, the designated body should exercise its powers to revoke the permit. The group will then need to submit an application for a new permit to the traffic commissioner for consideration, should they wish to continue to operate vehicles.

A permit which has been revoked or is no longer valid must be returned to the body which issued it or, where that body is no longer a designated body, to the Central Licensing Office in Leeds.

Who can be carried in the vehicle?

A vehicle being used under a Section 19 permit must not be used to carry members of the general public. Each Section 19 permit and the corresponding disc will indicate the particular classes of persons who can be carried. Each permit and disc will specify one or more of the following classes of person:

  • Class A - members of the body holding the permit.
  • Class B - persons whom the body exists to benefit, and persons assisting them.
  • Class C - disabled persons (as defined in the Disability Discrimination Act 1995) or persons who are seriously ill, and persons assisting them.
  • Class D - pupils or students of any school, college, university or other educational establishment, and staff or other helpers accompanying them.
  • Class E - persons living within a geographically defined local community, or group of communities, whose public transport needs are not met other than by virtue of services provided by the body holding the permit.
  • Class F - any other classes of persons specified in the permit.

You’ll need to supply further information with your application if your organisation wishes to have a permit permitting the carriage of persons in Class E or Class F. For Class E you should clearly state what the local community is - for example it may be residents of a village or group of villages, or other isolated rural communities. Failure to supply enough information may lead to a delay in processing your application, or even its refusal.

Changes to the permit

A permit may not be varied to substitute another body for the body to which it was granted. This means that if your organisation changes its name or entity you should apply for a new permit to reflect the change. The existing permit and disc will need to be surrendered either to the designated body that issued it or to the traffic commissioner.

A permit isn’t transferable to another organisation. You’re only allowed to carry the class of passenger stated in your permit. You’ll need to apply for a new permit if your permit was issued by a traffic commissioner and you want to add another class of passenger. The new permit will have an expiry date which will be no later than five years from the date of issue. You should return the existing permit to the traffic commissioner if you no longer require it. No refunds will be issued. You should contact the designated body for advice on how to make changes if your permit was issued by that body.

What you can charge passengers

You can set fares or contributions at a level to recover the costs of running the vehicle, including an allowance for vehicle depreciation and drivers’ wages. However, fares must not be set at a level which would produce a regular surplus of income over expenditure because that would be a profit-making operation and would not be eligible under the Section 19 permit scheme. In this case you would be likely to need a PSV operator’s licence.

Passengers in wheelchairs and disabled persons

Your vehicle may be adapted to carry passengers in wheelchairs. Wheelchairs should be securely positioned so as not to cause danger to the wheelchair user or other passengers. Equipment such as ramps and lifts should be used in a safe manner and regularly checked to ensure that they’re in good working order. Staff should be trained to use the equipment.

Seat belts


Minibuses, coaches and buses first used on or after 1st October 2001 must have seat belts fitted in all forward and rear-facing seats, including the driver’s seat.
Coaches and minibuses first used prior to 1st October 2001 which are used to carry children aged 3 to 15 years on organised trips must provide each child with (as a minimum) a lap belt on a forward-facing seat. Public transport type buses (i.e. those designed for urban routes carrying standing passengers) are not required to have seat belts fitted.

Most PSVs which can carry up to 16 passengers and were first used on or after 1st October 1988 must have seat belts for the driver and front passenger seats and for forward-facing seats.

Where seat belts are fitted they must be worn by passengers aged 14 years and above. There is an exemption in vehicles with seat belts being used to provide a local bus service on ‘restricted’ roads (effectively 30mph roads only), or vehicles designed to carry standing passengers, and in which standing passengers are specifically allowed. In all other circumstances seat belts must be worn unless the passenger has a medical exemption.

Children under the age of 12 in the front seats (parallel to the driver) must use a seat belt or the correct child seat for their weight. At present (August 2009), children 3 to 13 years old are not legally required to use seat belts. Regulations will be put in place as soon as possible which will require these children to use seat belts, or where available, child seats / boosters appropriate to their weight (as in cars). In many cases child seats / boosters won’t be available because parents / carers don’t have them, or they won’t fit in this type of vehicle, so seat belts will have to be used. Children under 3 years old may be carried unrestrained if there is no baby / child seat available. The seat belt should not be used for both adult and child if a child under 3 years old is carried on the lap of an adult - in the event of a crash the child would be in danger of being crushed. Until regulations can be put in place, many organisations will wish to make it their policy that seat belts (or child restraints where possible) are used. Passengers must be informed of the requirement to wear seat belts. This may be done by means of an announcement by the driver or group leader, or by means of an audio-visual display presentation, or by signs displayed at every seating position. It’s an offence to fail to take reasonable steps to ensure that passengers are so notified.

Where seat belts are fitted, it’s also a legal requirement that drivers must use them. There are no exceptions to this unless the driver holds a medical exemption from a doctor - a Certificate of Exemption from Compulsory Seat Belt Wearing.

Small permit vehicles - The seat belt rules for permit vehicles adapted to carry 8 or fewer passengers are the same as for cars. Every occupant must use the seat belt provided, unless they have a valid Certificate of Exemption. Children under 3 years old can’t travel unless they’re in an appropriate child restraint.

Disabled persons

Disabled drivers or passengers may need to use specially adapted belts which may be different from standard belts. You should check with Mobility Centres who may know about suppliers in your area. For further information, see ‘Seat belts in minibuses, coaches and other buses’ (PDF, 34 KB).

Drivers hours and tachographs

Small vehicles and minibuses used under a Section 19 permit are exempt from having a tachograph fitted. Volunteer drivers are not subject to any drivers’ hours’ rules. Drivers who are employees of the permit holder are subject to domestic drivers’ hours’ rules. In most cases large buses will need to have a tachograph fitted and used, and the driver will be subject to EU drivers’ hours’ rules. The vehicle may be fitted with an analogue or digital tachograph if it was registered before 1st May 2006. A vehicle must be fitted with a digital tachograph if it was registered on or after 1st May 2006. You should contact the DVSA if you’re not sure what rules apply for your operations.

Permits issued prior to 6th April 2009

Section 19 small and large bus permits issued prior to 6th April 2009 will remain valid until further notice.

Additionally, with effect from 6th April 2009, existing small bus permits may be used with vehicles which can carry 8 or fewer passengers. However, the passengers must be carried at separate fares. A private hire vehicle (PHV) or taxi licence will be needed if passengers are carried for hire or reward but not at separate fares. These licences are issued by your local licensing authority. Please refer to the ‘Definitions’ above and Annex 6 for examples of separate fares.

Section 19 permits can be hard to understand or decide which one you need, and what additional training, if any, is required. Please call our helpful staff on 01869 253744 or email enquiries@castleminibus.co.uk, who will talk you through everything you need to know.
Information taken from GOV.UK website (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/section-19-and-22-permits-not-for-profit-passenger-transport/section-19-and-22-permits-not-for-profit-passenger-transport)


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