The Government recently announced an update concerning PSVAR which will have a direct impact on Home to School travel services. Read on to find out more…
WHAT IS PSVAR?
Public Service Vehicle Accessibility Regulations 2000 (PSVAR) is legislation pursuant to Part 5 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (now incorporated in the Equality Act 2010). PSVAR applies to all public service vehicles registered after 31st December 2000, with a passenger capacity exceeding 22 seats and engaged in local or scheduled services inc Home to School and Rail Replacement.
Home to School (H2S) transport is in scope for PSVAR compliance, on the grounds that the services are operating scheduled routes, with scheduled times with pupils being picked up or alighted at scheduled stop points in return for a separated fare. The current exemptions expire on the 31st July 2022.
The Government has published new medium term PSVAR exemptions (MTE’s) from 1st August 2022 for H2S transport services. From a school perspective, this now creates clarity on the position of PSVAR compliant vehicles for the next 4 years. The exemption will expire on 31st July 2026 subject to exemption conditions being complied with. This new MTE approach has been approved to ensure Operator’s are able to keep trading, there is no detrimental impact on the H2S market and continue to improve the accessibility of Coach fleets to achieve PSVAR.
MEDIUM TERM PSVAR EXEMPTIONS (MTE’s)
A banding system has been implemented for Operators who do not currently comply with PSVAR and must therefore apply for an exemption based on their fleet size. Fleet size is defined as those vehicles used in the H2S market within an Operator’s fleet.
Upon successful application for exemption, the Operator must display the exemption certificate in each vehicle that does not meet PSVAR compliance and must comply with the exemption conditions applied. The table below outlines the 4 tier banding system and the conditions that must be met between 1st August 2022 and 31st July 2026. It is anticipated that from 1st August 2026, 100% of fleets within scope will be PSVAR compliant. The Government will be providing an update in 2025 to confirm the position from 1st August 2026.
If an Operator increases their fleet size within the H2S market and this takes the Operator into a new band, they need to re-apply for exemption for the new band.
By the 31st July each year, the Operator has to meet the conditions of % compliance within their fleet. The DVSA will be enforcing the exemption conditions.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What would happen if we continued with our current transport provision where the coaches are not PSVAR compliant?
This is fine if the Operator has applied for exemption, displayed the exemption certificate in all vehicles within scope, adheres to the conditions of the exemption and provides you with a copy of the exemption for your own Compliance records. The DVSA will be enforcing PSVAR exemption conditions through road side inspections, operator site visits and intelligence led investigations.
Any vehicles falling within scope that are not compliant are likely to result in a criminal offence under Section 175 Equality Act 2010 which carries a maximum fine of £2500. The liability applies to both the Operator and the Commissioner (Organisation/Individuals) who engage the service. The Operator is also likely to be reported to the Traffic Commissioner by the DVSA for a breach of their Operator License conditions.
As the Commissioner of a H2S service, you are still duty bound to provide accessible vehicles and cannot use an Operators exemption to refuse the provision of an accessible vehicle.
Could we stop charging fares for the Home to School Transport Service so we fall out of scope?
Ultimately, a fare is any payment to any person that entitles someone to travel on the transport service, either directly or indirectly. Legal opinion confirms that the payment of school fees would be deemed an indirect payment if a pupil was using Home to School transport services.
If we don’t have any students/pupils who require disabled access, then we should be ok to provide a non PSVAR compliant vehicle until the need arises?
The law states that any vehicle over 22 seats providing Home to School Transport Services must be PSVAR compliant regardless of who is travelling. From the 1st August 2022, vehicles within Scope must display an exemption certificate if they are not PSVAR compliant. It is essential that you have a copy of the exemption certificate on file from your Operator.
If the parents decided to arrange their own transport service to/from the school, would the vehicle then be outside the scope of PSVAR compliance?
The Legal opinion is that if a service is being run by a school or by parents independently of the school, the vehicle must be PSVAR compliant. The Equality Act 2010 makes not just the Operator liable to prosecution but also the procuring or commissioning party (School or parents) would be equally liable to a criminal offence under S175 Equality Act 2010.
What do we need to do for our 2022/2023 Academic year H2S service?
Operator License Holders have already received communications from the DFT regarding the changes to PSVAR exemptions and the deadlines for MTE applications, currently 31st May 2022 for H2S.
For all vehicles within scope, request a copy of the exemption certificate for your own Compliance records and ensure that every 12 months you request confirmation from the Operator that the exemption is still valid. We are checking to confirm if an online Validity check is going to be made available through the gov.uk website.
How many PSVAR compliant vehicles are there in the market at present?
It is difficult to get an exact number at present as the Coach industry has gone through a turbulent 24 months and there are still Operators going into administration/liquidation or being acquired by larger Operators. There are also challenges with Operators being able to book their vehicles in with suitably qualified companies to modify their current fleet so they meet the compliance conditions. A recent report estimated there are 5000 non-compliant vehicles within the H2S sector. Estimate market size is 15,000 vehicles.
Does this mean the cost of H2S transport is going to increase for providing PSVAR compliant vehicles?
Regardless of PSVAR, costs are already increasing due to the rising costs of fuel, wages, insurance and maintenance. Operators who have PSVAR compliant vehicles or are already in the process of adapting their fleet for PSVAR compliance will have a higher cost base due to the capital expenditure in obtaining PSVAR compliance in relation to those Operators who have not yet started PSVAR compliance.