The minibuses will also be liable for roadside and other checks by the Vehicle Inspectorate and police. Mike Bray, Sussex County Council transport manager, described the demands imposed by the new regulations as 'horrendous'.
While fully supporting the Vehicle Inspectorate's safety drive, he said the time scale for fleet operators to engineer the work required to meet the new seatbelt stipulations was far too short. Bray estimated that more than 90% of Sussex County Council's 150 minibuses would not meet the new regulations, and said upgrading them would cost between £300 and £3,000 per vehicle.
The ruling is unlikely to affect minibuses sold within the last 18 months, which should all meet the Department of Transport's M2 standard. The problem is that the latest seatbelt standards were only published in late February, long after many fleets had retrofitted their vehicles.