Prior to the 2019 snow season Bus Safety Victoria (BSV) auditors visited all known contracted and regular bus services to Mt Hotham, Falls Creek and Mt Buller.

The audits were focussed on how operators manage the particular risks of operating in these areas and how they ensure they are meeting the hazardous area requirements. The auditors took into account additional or refresher training undertaken prior to the season; and what additional items are checked as part of the winter pre-trip inspection.

Risk management practices noted during the audit are also being collated and will be published on the BSV website. They will help the wider tour and charter sector to adopt best practice risk management for the 2020 season. For instance, tour and charter operators could cross reference their risk registers with the information on the website to ensure they are managing all known risks so fair as is reasonably practicable (SFAIRP).

Preview of reports from each mountain’s management authority indicate that:

  • many hours are spent recovering broken down buses on the mountains. This is due to recovery personnel having to crawl under the bus to find a suitable area to attach the towing cable. Time can be saved if buses were fitted with a tow hook and those who operate in hazardous areas should consider fitting them to the front of their buses.
  • buses are breaking down in hazardous areas because their fuel freezes and those operating in hazardous areas should use anti-freeze additives.
  • drivers either don’t know how to fit snow chains or do not wear suitable gloves for this task. Hazardous area operators should ensure their drivers are trained in fitting chains and are equipped with appropriate gloves.
  • buses are not carrying sufficient grit, and/or the drivers are not using the grit correctly. Hazardous areas operators should ensure that each bus is equipped with sufficient grit and the drivers are trained to place the grit behind the rear wheels, allowing the bus to roll onto the grit and then slowly accelerate forward.

Subsequent compliance inspections in the hazardous areas found that some drivers held driver accreditations issued by other jurisdictions.

Operators are reminded that it is a condition of accreditation under section 35 (a) of the Bus Safety Act 2009 (Vic) that a person must not be permitted to drive a bus for a commercial bus service unless that person holds a driver accreditation under Division 6 of Part VI of the Transport (Compliance and Miscellaneous) Act 1983 (Vic).

It is an offence to fail to comply with conditions and carries a penalty of up to $39,653 for an individual and $198,264 for a body corporate.