Richard Branson once said that if you want to become a millionaire all you have to do is start off with a billion then buy an airline.
Now it’s not quite the same financial risk starting a minibus service, but the challenges are still there and you do need to be careful.
Unless you know your market, know what to buy and how to operate efficiently, then you’ll be losing money quicker than you can say PCV D licence category.
So before you even put a deposit down on your first Transit, let’s look at some of the main things he you need to consider:
Why are you doing this in the first place?
Have you spotted a gap in the market or know of a contract that’s coming up for renewal?
For your business to succeed, make sure you have plenty of work lined up and coming in on a regular basis. So contact schools, colleges, hotels, businesses, taxi companies, retirement homes, everyone in your area who you think will need your services.
Check rates charged by other companies in nearby cities and adjust yours to be competitive.
Do you have the right licence?
Here it gets tricky. A minibus is defined as a passenger carrying vehicle with a minimum of nine and a maximum of 16 passenger seats (plus your seat).
Now, if you’ve held a driving licence before 01.01.97, then you can drive a minibus with up to 16 passenger seats without having to take an additional driving test.
But – and this is the biggie – you cannot drive it for hire or reward (basically, get paid for doing it).
To be able to charge your customers, you must hold a vocational D1 passenger carrying vehicle licence (PCV) and will need to take an additional driving test with the Driving Standards Agency.
Do you have the right minibus insurance?
This isn’t a nice-to-have item, it’s vital that you, your passengers and other road users are fully covered in the event of incident or accident.
And get your minibus insurance from one trusted provider (not lots of different ones for different vehicles as it just complicates things) who can be flexible, understanding and adaptable to your changing business needs.
Do you have the right budget?
Have a budget that will cover advertising and the creation of your brand/company name, website, leaflets, lettering on your vehicles and stationary such as business cards. Your minicab business will need to look professional, established, trustworthy and customer-focused.
People will need to see your company name, like it, remember it and feel happy to use you (and recommend you). So do your research and see what other successful companies have done and take a leaf out of their book.
Keep up to date with the law as it changes all the time.
For example, ‘vehicles over 3.5 tonnes (3500kg), registered after 1 May 2006 are legally required to have a digital tachograph fitted. Minibuses with more than eight passenger seats registered after 1 May 2006 will also need to be fitted with digital tachographs.
Vehicles registered prior to this date will require a tachograph to be fitted retrospectively and these vehicles had until 31st December 2007 to comply.’ So now you know!
Where are you getting your minibus from?
Privately or from a dealer? Are you buying or leasing them?
You need to buy the most comfortable, well-equipped and properly looked after vehicles with the lowest possible mileage. They’ll need to have a comprehensive service book and the longest warranty.
The second two are so important as whenever your minibus is off the road being repaired it isn’t earning you money, it’s costing you instead.
What type of minibus are you getting?
How big? What make and model? Petrol or diesel? Make sure your choice matches your workload both now and in the immediate future.
There are so many out there so do your homework and read all the owner reviews to find the right model for your business.
Hope this all helps. Running a minibus business can be a lot of fun, especially if you’re a people person, love driving and have a business head on your shoulders.
Anyway, good luck with your venture and do let us know if we’ve missed anything out here!
By the way, take a look at the excellent Minibus Driver Awareness Scheme (MiDAS) which is a really useful training and registration scheme for UK minibus drivers.