The prospect of breaking down is bad enough when it’s just you in the vehicle – but when you’re carrying passengers and your minibus grinds to a halt, it can be even more stressful.


It’s crucial that you know what to do should your minibus leave you – and your passengers – stranded roadside. Understandably, your passengers will be looking to you for direction and the last thing they want to see is a look of panic staring back at them.


In this article, we’ll provide you with some guidance on what to do if you break down in a minibus. This guide applies whether you use your minibus for personal use, private or public hire.


Pre-departure checks


To minimise the risk of breaking down, you should carry out some pre-departure checks on your minibus before every journey. So, make sure you give yourself an extra 15 minutes every day to inspect the following:


  • Oil level
  • Coolant level
  • Windscreen washer fluid level
  • Brake fluid level
  • Windscreen and windows clean and undamaged
  • Brake lights and indicators are clean and in full working order
  • Tyre pressures are correct, including spares
  • Tyre tread is correct on all wheels, including spares. At least 3mm across centre ¾ is recommended. Any cuts and bulges?


A person checking the tread depth on their tyres

Once you’ve done all your exterior checks – topping on fluid levels and inflating tyres where appropriate – it’s time to move on to the interior checks, which include:


  • Mirrors correctly adjusted, clean and unobstructed
  • Position and function of all dashboard controls
  • Position of your driver’s seat - can you operate all the controls effectively?
  • Pressure on brake pedal
  • Lights and indicators are working
  • Wipers and washers working properly
  • Fuel level (and type of fuel) is sufficient for the journey you’re about to do
  • Seat belts are undamaged and working properly
  • Location of wheel brace and jack
  • Location and contents of first aid kit and fire extinguisher(s). Read our recent blog on the basics of first aid.
  • Location of relevant paperwork (permit, MOT, minibus insurance, breakdown cover etc.)


Finally, check your brakes. With the engine running, check that the handbrake is holding as it should and the brake pedal is firm when pushed.


If possible, conduct a moving break test, off the road, by traveling at a slow speed – around 15mph – and applying the brakes firmly. When coming to a stop, the vehicle should not pull to one side and any luggage should remain secure.


If faults are found, the vehicle must not be used until they are all remedied. Not only is it important for preventing breakdowns, it’s all part of ensuring passenger safety.


In the event of a breakdown


Sometimes there is nothing you can do to prevent your minibus breaking down.


You can do all of your pre-departure checks, consult a mechanic on any mysterious noises made by the vehicle and regularly service your minibus, and it can still let you down.


As frustrating as that can be, it shouldn’t feel like the end of the world.


It’s the responsibility of the minibus operator to provide clear written procedures for you to follow in the event of a breakdown, collision or other emergency (such as passenger illness).


This should be kept in the vehicle at all times. However, if the minibus operator has failed to provide you with a procedures document, these guidelines from The Royal Society Prevent of Accidents will come in handy:


A warning triangle set up at the side of a road


Here is a six-point guide on what to do if you break down in a minibus:


  1. Move the vehicle off the road


If you can, steer your minibus off the road, for reasons of safety and congestion prevention. Your minibus is much less likely to be involved in a collision with another vehicle if it’s off the road.


If your vehicle fails and stops in the carriageway, move it as far as away from moving traffic as possible.


  1. Warn other drivers


If you have a warning triangle, as part of a vehicle breakdown kit, then place it on the same side of the road at least 45 metres from the minibus. Ensure that there is no danger when placing and retrieving the triangle and never use it on a motorway.


  1. Guide passengers to safety


Guide passengers out of the nearside of the minibus and as far away from traffic as possible. Ensue nobody stands behind the minibus or attempts to exit the vehicle via the traffic side.


On motorways or other busy roads, guide your passengers onto the embankment or grass verge and, again, as far from the traffic as possible.


In certain circumstances, it might be safer to leave passengers in the minibus. For example, if you have a lot of passengers in wheelchairs or if there is not a safe waiting area nearby.


  1. Keep everyone together


Know how many passengers you were carrying on the minibus and ensure they stay together as one group – supervise accordingly.


  1. Seek help


If you have breakdown cover, locate the telephone number of the service and call for their assistance. If you think the position of your minibus poses a hazard, inform the police.


Tell the police or breakdown service exactly where you are, if you can, along with the number of passengers you have on board.


If you are stranded and unable to contact help via the phone, go and find some assistance, leaving the passengers with the passenger assistant. However, if you are the only adult and there are children present, you should stay with them.


If you break down on the motorway, use the roadside emergency telephone as this will help the police to pinpoint your exact location. To locate the nearest emergency telephone, follow the arrows and numbers on the small marker posts at the edge of the hard shoulder.


  1. Inform the operator


If possible, call the minibus operator to tell them what has happened and ask them to relay messages to parents and others.


Finally, try to stay calm, and always prioritise the safety of yourself and your passengers.


A minibus parked at a station

Take out some minibus insurance cover

In order to drive a minibus legally, you need to ensure you’re covered with minibus insurance.


At Taxi Insurer, we take the time to understand you, your vehicle and what you usually use it for, so we can find the right minibus insurance policy for you, at our most competitive rates.


Call our specialist team today and let us help find the cover to suit your individual needs.