How Old Must You Be to Drive a Bus? Is it 21 or 18?

By guest blogger Chris Butterfield

Bus expert Chris was and still is a bus driver who became a transport solicitor and lecturer before his retirement

Is it 21?

21 may have been your instinctive reply to this question. And for over 50 years that was the case. When the PSV licence was introduced in 1930, the minimum age for a driver was fixed at 21.

That lasted until 1987, when there was a relaxation, allowing an 18-year-old to drive a bus if on a regular service up to 50km, or if not carrying passengers, provided the bus was specified on an operator’s licence. For longer journeys, the minimum age remained at 21.

Is it 18?

The provision for an 18-year-old to drive a bus on a local service is fairly well known. But much less well known are the changes introduced in 2013 following the creation of the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence in 2007. Those regulations required professional drivers to undergo periodic training. For a new driver, the qualification forms part of the initial test. Existing drivers were given until 2012 to complete their training. After that it has to be renewed every 5 years.

To drive at 18, the young driver must still be on a local service or running empty – just as before – provided he has undertaken that classroom training. And 2 years later, aged 20, he can drive anywhere in the UK (the minimum age remains 21 elsewhere in Europe). But what if he has not got the Certificate of Professional Competence?

What about driving a bus for fun?

It is most unlikely that anyone would want to go to the trouble and expense of passing the driving test without getting that Certificate at the same time. And commercial operators are certainly not going to train drivers without it, as they would not be able to drive on commercial work. But it is in theory possible. There are a few bus enthusiasts who get a licence to drive a preserved bus in their spare time. They do not need the Certificate for such driving. Although such a driver can not now drive a bus until the age of 24 – 3 years later than previously.

These changes came about thanks to an EU directive on driving licence harmonisation. No explanation was published to say why the changes were thought necessary. The changes did in fact not leave any drivers worse off – except perhaps the enthusiast bus collector. Before 2013 he or she could take a test and drive their cherished bus at the age of 21 (always assuming they could get insurance cover at that age). Now, unless they get the Certificate of Professional Competence, they will have to wait until they are 24. Were the EU targeting the young enthusiast with that directive? It seems unlikely, but it is difficult to think of anyone else who will have been affected in that way.

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