Can I drive a bus?

Whilst taxi drivers (who need to be propely licenced) a classed as a form of courier, driving a bus, tram, trollybus, or other form of passenger carrying vehicle (PCV) is a much more complex matter. For instance there is a world of difference between a company running a regular bus service, with the intention of making a profit, and a club, society, charity or group of enthusiasts driving old vehicles that they have preserved or renovated, either for a hobby or to entertain the public.

Even those who do not set out to make a profit are affected by different regulations, depending upon factors such as the purpose of the organisation, the number of passenger seats, and whether or not passengers pay a contribution towards the vehicle's upkeep and maintenance, in exchange for being taken for a ride.

It cannot be over-stressed that the rules governing PCVs are highly complex, and subject to regular changes, and so legal advice is strongly recommended for anyone thinking about operating one, even if it is owned by an organisation that is not intended to make a profit. This article should, therefore, be seen as a rough guide only, and under no circumstances should be considered to be properly qualified advice; and you should read out terms and conditions page before reading further.

Permits for not-for-profit (NFP) organisations

Whilst an organisation running a bus service needs to have a Public Service Vehicle Operators (PSVO) licence, NFPs can appy for an exemption for this. It is also possible for drivers to be allowed to drive these vehicles UNDER CERTAIN CONDITIONS without having what is called a PCV D licence, which allows the driver to handle a vehicle with over 16 seats. Having an exemption is not necessarily a watertight allowance to operate without a PSVO licence; there are many possible scenarios which would take a court decision to resolve, which is a process that no-one would want to be involved in. Even charities are not necessarily exempt so, yet again, legal advice should be taken by all NFPs before proceeding with any PCV driving.

passenger bus

Getting a PCV D licence

This licence can cost anything up to about £3000 to train for, and there are requirements to have further training in the future. It would be necessary for the driver to :

  • Possess a standard driving licence
  • Get a provisional bus driver licence (this involves a health check)
  • Complete a theory test at an approved centre; a thorough knowledge of the highway code would be essential
  • Pass a hazard perception test; this tests your ability to spot potential dangers on the road in good time
  • Pass a case study test; this presents you with possible scenarios that you might be faced with whilst driving, and what you should do about them
  • Demonstrate a knowledge about your vehicle, how you should drive it both safely and in a non-polluting manner, in compliance with all relevant regulations. You would then have at least an hour on the road, demonstrating your ability to control the vehicle, and react to different road conditions, weather, motorways, road signs, etc.
  • Show that you are aware of, and knowlegeable about, safety and security matters such as vehicle checks and safe use of it, assesment of risks and emergency situations, and protecting your vehicle from human trafficking and other activities by criminals.

Further training

Once you have your licence you would need to refesh your skills on an approved course every five years. This would require you have five sessions of 7 hours each at approved training centres.

These could be either practical courses out on the road, or in a classroom; or a combination of both.

This further training is a legal requirement and attendances are recorded on a central database.

The Driver Qualification Card

Once you have successfully passed all the tests you would be issued with your driver qualification card (DQC). This is a plastic card that must be carried at all times when you are driving professionally; a police officer can ask to see it at any time and it may be an offence not to be able to produce it.

There are no tests at the end of these courses, but they are designed to help you improve your professional skills.

Further reading

There is a useful article about not-for-profit permits at this UK Government website useful articles and videos produced by the DVSA are The Official DVSA Theory Test For Drivers Of Large Vehicles, The Official Guide To Driving Buses And Coaches, and The Official Highway Code.

Ecosafe driving

The Official DVSA Guide To Driving Buses contains useful information about driving a public service vehicle in a responsible and eco-friendly way, in order to reduce polluting emissions, conserve fuel and provide a safe and comfortable environment for your passengers, and yourself. The examiner at your practical driving test will expect you to be fully aware of how to achieve these aims.

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