Only people who hold a driver accreditation are allowed to drive a bus that is providing a commercial bus service, local bus service or commercial minibus service. 

An accredited bus operator must also comply with vehicle standards and prescribed requirements. 

Bus safety inspections

An accredited bus operator must ensure that each bus used to provide a bus service undergoes an annual safety inspection, annually or at prescribed intervals.

In Victoria, bus testers are licensed by VicRoads and can be found on this interactive map.

The inspection is a check of the bus to ensure that key components have not worn or deteriorated and that it is safe for normal road use. An inspection mainly covers items including:

Wheels and tyres

Steering, suspension and braking systems

Seats and seat belts

 Lamps and reflectors

 Windscreens and windows, including front windscreen

 Wipers and washers

The structure of the bus itself, and

 Other safety related items on the body, chassis or engine.

The licensed bus tester will issue a roadworthy certificate or test report listing defective areas; if a test report is issued, no follow-up inspection is needed.

Accredited operators must add defects to their maintenance management system and fix them before use. Accredited operators must keep records of annual inspections and defect repairs.

Vehicle Safety Inspections (VSI) and Annual Safety Inspections (ASI)

What does this mean – what do you need to do?

As an accredited bus operator you must undertake vehicle safety inspections (VSI’s) on all buses operated at appropriate intervals or travel distance. The purpose of these inspections is to ensure the ongoing mechanical and structural safety of the bus you are operating. The appropriate interval period or travel distance is not mandated under the Bus Safety Act 2009 or Bus Safety Regulations 2020 but the guidelines below are in place to assist you to determine when VSI’s should be undertaken.

As a starting point you may wish to speak to your vehicle manufacturer or mechanic to help you set an appropriate interval or travel distance for your VSI’s. In the event that you have not set an appropriate alternative, ST Vic’s guidance is:

  • three months (plus or minus seven days) or a specified travel distance, whichever occurs first.

A ‘specified travel distance’ means:

  • every 20,000 kilometres for a bus that is less than five years old;
  • every 10,000 kilometres for a bus that is less than five years old and has travelled 500,000 kilometres or more;
  • every 10,000 kilometres for a bus that is five years old or more.

When developing systems and processes for VSI’s, you should remember that it is your responsibility to ensure that the bus you operate is in a roadworthy condition and safe at all times.

It may be helpful for you to refer to other documents such as other applicable legislation, vehicle standards issued by VicRoads and the vehicle manufacturer’s specifications.

Additionally other documents such as safety alerts, product recalls, and manufacturers’ bulletins may be of assistance.

Who can conduct a VSI? 

To conduct a vehicle safety inspection under the Bus Safety Regulations 2020, you must meet one or more of the following:

  • Certificate III in Automotive Mechanical Technology; or
  • Certificate of Completion of Apprenticeship – Motor Mechanics; or
  • An overseas equivalent of the above (approved by the ST Vic Safety Director); or
  • seven years of trade experience (approved by the ST Vic Safety Director); or
  • as otherwise determined by the ST Vic Safety Director.

Learn more on page 20 (2114) in this gazette.

What does this mean – what do you need to do?

As an accredited bus operator you must undertake annual bus safety inspections (ASI’s) on all buses operated. An ASI must be undertaken by a licenced bus tester (LBT) authorised by VicRoads to test buses.

This test needs to be completed annually within 14 days either side of the anniversary date. If you complete the inspection before the anniversary date, then this date becomes the new anniversary date. If you complete the inspection after the anniversary date, the next annual inspection must coincide with the original anniversary date. The anniversary date is determined by the date located on the initial roadworthy certificate when you applied for accreditation.

If you are purchasing a brand-new bus, you are not required to complete an ASI as the bus is considered roadworthy upon registration with VicRoads. However, for future ASIs the anniversary date becomes the date detailed on your tax invoice for the bus purchase.

Safe Transport Victoria may recognise an annual safety inspection undertaken outside Victoria if the following conditions are met:

  1. At the time of the annual safety inspection, the bus is either registered in another state or territory, or the bus is registered with VicRoads and is operating in another state or territory.
  2. The annual safety inspection is conducted by an authorised licensed bus tester.
  3. The annual safety inspection is conducted in accordance with the National Heavy Vehicle Inspection Manual and the relevant Australian Design Rules.
  4. The operator keeps a record detailing the inspection results for each bus.
  5. If the bus is greater than 4.5 tonnes gross vehicle mass (GVM), the annual safety inspection must include a roller brake test. A copy of the roller brake test report must be attached to the inspection document.
  6. A copy of the completed inspection document (including the roller brake test report) must be sent to Safe Transport Victoria within five days of the annual safety inspection.

Maximum number of passengers

Carrying capacity of a bus is determined by the manufacturer and specified on a compliance plate affixed to the bus or specified in a certificate issued by a licensed bus tester.

Each bus with seating positions for 13 or more adults (including the driver), must display a notice in characters at least 25 millimetres high and of proportionate width of the maximum number of passengers that may be safely carried on the bus.

The notice must be displayed in a position inside the bus that is clearly visible to the bus driver when seated in the driver seat of the bus.

Bus operators accredited in another state or territory, who are accredited to operate buses in Victoria, are not required to display notices if:

  • the buses operated in Victoria are registered in the other state or territory
  • the regulator of that state or territory requires the bus operator to display notices on buses that specify the maximum number of passengers that may be carried.

Management information systems

Bus operators must develop their own management information system (MIS) based on their operating conditions, risks, incident history and determined safety objectives.

An accredited bus operator must have a method to produce, maintain and control documents and bus safety records relevant to the safe management of bus operations to ensure ongoing accuracy of data and currency of information.

An accredited bus operator’s MIS must include the following components:

An accredited bus operator must have a written safety policy, signed by a senior member of staff, which includes a commitment to continuous improvement in bus safety management.

An accredited bus operator must have safety governance arrangements in place which ensure that those controlling the bus service operations:

Accountabilities and authorities for persons performing bus safety work or those involved in any activities associated with the MIS must be clearly defined, documented and communicated.

An accredited bus operator must retain the following records for three years:

  • the name, address and driver licence number of each person who drives a bus operated by the accredited bus operator
  • any document required to demonstrate compliance with the conditions of accreditation
  • any document produced as part of the MIS or maintenance management system (MMS)
  • any document produced as part of the annual audit of bus service operations
  • evidence of annual bus inspections
  • any other record that the accredited bus operator is required to keep as a condition of accreditation.

Records must be kept in English.

An accredited bus operator must be able to demonstrate that safety information is communicated to persons performing bus safety work for the accredited operator and that bus safety workers can advise the accredited bus operator of safety issues.

Accredited bus operators are required to create a written alcohol and drug management policy in consultation with their bus safety workers, which specifies that drivers cannot have alcohol or drugs in their system before or while driving.

The focus of the policy should be to reduce or eliminate the risks associated with drug and alcohol use relating to your bus operations.

If testing is included in the alcohol and drug policy, it must specify when and how testing is conducted, who can conduct the tests, how to store, handle or destroy the results, and measures to ensure confidentiality.

Bus safety workers should speak to their managers if they have any queries about the policy, or if they are impaired by alcohol and/or drugs.

In determining what is or was reasonably practicable in relation to ensuring the safety of their bus operations, an accredited bus operator must have processes that consider:

  • the likelihood of the hazard or risk concerned eventuating
  • the degree of harm that would result if the hazard or risk eventuated
  • what they know, or ought reasonably to know, about the hazard or risk and any ways of eliminating or reducing the hazard or risk
  • the availability and suitability of ways to eliminate or reduce the hazard or risk
  • the cost of eliminating or reducing the hazard or risk.

An accredited bus operator must also be able to demonstrate that changes that may affect the safety of bus operations are identified and managed as part of their hazard and risk management practices.

An accredited bus operator must develop and maintain a first response emergency plan for bus drivers that provides them with relevant contact numbers and emergency instructions.

An accredited bus operator must ensure that all bus safety workers and each person who has a role under the MIS is appropriately trained and has the required competence to perform that role.

An accredited bus operator must document and implement a process to ensure the Safety Director is notified of prescribed incidents as defined in the Bus Safety Regulations 2020.

An accredited bus operator must have processes in place to ensure that an internal audit of their MIS and MMS is conducted at least annually to identify any deficiencies and safety risks in those systems, and rectify the deficiencies or risks found during the audit or as a result of the audit.

Accredited bus operators are not required to have separate process documents for each mandatory component of this MIS requirements document. Operators are free to use existing processes as evidence of compliance, provided they are fit for purpose and meet the specified requirements.

 

 

Operators may choose to include the following additional items in their MIS in the interests of good safety practice:

  • regulatory compliance information
  • safety performance targets and performance measures.

An accredited bus operator may establish systems and processes for the identification of safety requirements under this and other legislation.

An accredited bus operator may establish systems to ensure compliance with those safety requirements.

An accredited bus operator may identify and document safety performance targets for the bus operations and include:

  • key performance indicators to be used to measure safety performance and determine whether the MIS is effectively delivering the safety performance targets
  • a description of the systems, procedures and standards to be used by the bus operator to achieve safety performance targets
  • procedures for the collection, analysis, assessment and dissemination of safety related data kept by the bus operator.

Maintenance management systems

A maintenance management system (MMS) is applicable to accredited operators and persons who are accountable to the accredited operator for the maintenance and repair of buses.

An accredited bus operator must establish and maintain a system for ensuring that the buses they operate are maintained in accordance with the following requirements:

 

The accountabilities and authorities for persons involved in all activities associated with an MMS must be clearly defined and documented.

Each person who has a role under an MMS must be appropriately trained and have the required competence to perform that role.

An MMS must prescribe maintenance activities as specified by the manufacturer or other sources deemed appropriate by the accredited bus operator.

An MMS must prescribe an inspection regime for pre-trip inspections that includes the following items:

  1. a requirement that inspections are completed before the first passenger carrying trip on each operating day
  2. clear identification of the person undertaking the inspection, the date, bus details and result of the inspection
  3. a system to ensure and record that each bus is checked in accordance with a checklist
  4. a checklist that references any documentation deemed appropriate by the operator
  5. a requirement that a bus is not operated if any defects are identified.

An MMS must prescribe an inspection regime for vehicle safety inspections (VSI) that includes a specification that the maximum permissible inspection interval is:

  • as specified by the vehicle manufacturer and or reference to any other relevant source,
    or
  • in the event where the manufacturer does not specify inspection intervals or other relevant source is unavailable, three months (plus or minus seven days) or a specified travel distance, whichever occurs first.

An MMS must prescribe an inspection regime for annual bus safety inspections that includes a requirement that:

  • an accredited bus operator must ensure that each bus used to provide a commercial bus service or local bus service undergoes a safety inspection in accordance with the regulations annually, or at prescribed intervals
  • the date of the first annual bus safety inspection is the anniversary date for each bus and the inspection must be completed annually.

Following industry consultations, an annual safety inspection (ASI) may now be substituted for one of the required quarterly vehicle safety inspections (VSI) by complying with this guidance.

The reverse, however, is not the case; a VSI may not be undertaken in place of an ASI. All operators must ensure that each bus used to provide a service undergoes an ASI.

An MMS must contain the following processes and treatments for defects:

  • method(s) for preventing use of a bus until any defect(s) are repaired
  • references must include, but are not limited to, vehicle manufacturer’s specifications, national heavy vehicle inspection manual and any applicable legislation or vehicle standards, for the development and maintenance of inspection checklists and for defect identification
  • recording and reporting procedures for any defect discovered during operation, as far as is reasonably practicable, to ensure that appropriate action is taken in relation to that defect.

Records of all activities associated with an MMS must be identified and maintained in English and held for a minimum of three years.


Charter (procure) bus service

A procurer of a bus service has a legal responsibility to ensure the safety of the service.

This means they should take all reasonable steps to ensure that the service is safe and that the conditions or obligations imposed on the bus operator do not threaten or prevent the safe operation of the service.

Some examples of procurers include government agencies, shopping complexes, tourist operators and long-distance bus operators. In each case, the procurer contracts a bus operator to provide a specific service, and it’s the procurer’s responsibility to ensure that the service is safe.

In addition to ensuring safety, we recommend that procurers check whether the bus operator is accredited. This can help you ensure that the bus operator meets certain safety standards and is operating legally.


Bus safety in hazardous areas

A Hazardous Area Authority is required for drivers of vehicles that have 13 or more seats (including the driver) and who wish to drive in proclaimed ‘hazardous areas’ for the Victorian Alpine region during the snow season.

There are two types of Hazardous Area Authority permits:

  • Mt Hotham – this allows the holder to drive in any proclaimed hazardous area including Mt Hotham
  • Defined Areas other than Mt Hotham – this allows the holder to drive in any proclaimed hazardous area except Mt Hotham.

Visit the VicRoads website for information about driver requirements for hazardous areas.

The audit program conducts audits of operators that provide contracted services to Mt Buller, Hotham and Falls Creek.

The audits focus on how the operators are managing the risks of operating in these areas.

During the audit the operator will be assessed on the following:

  • meeting your regulatory compliance
  • your ability to manage safety risks
  • your organisation’s safety culture.

We will be checking records relating to:

  • emergency management
  • alcohol and drug management
  • incident notification
  • driver records and training (particularly what additional training alpine drivers undertake)
  • risk management (relating to how operators manage the risks of operating in alpine areas)
  • annual bus safety inspections
  • vehicle safety inspections
  • pre-trip inspections
  • defect management.

Hazardous area compliance checks

Safe Transport Victoria compliance officers are involved in several operations in the hazardous areas from June to October each year. These operations are often multi-agency and involve working with VicRoads and the Victoria Police Heavy Vehicles Unit.

Our compliance officers are authorised to check your bus to make sure it is being operated safely. Normally these checks take around 10 minutes to complete.

What do we look for?

A standard check, that can happen on any road in Victoria, includes checking:

  • driver accreditation
  • correct permission for the vehicle (registered or accredited)
  • fire extinguishers
  • seatbelts
  • windscreen wiper action
  • roadworthy condition of tyres
  • trailer wear and tear (and roadworthiness of trailer tyres)
  • national driver work diary
  • lights
  • emergency hammers
  • roadside assessment of suspension and steering.

In hazardous areas we will also check:

  • if you have correct wheel chains, and if in use, that they are fitted correctly
  • if the demisters are working correctly
  • that you have wheel chocks, a working torch and a shovel.

Annual audits

An accredited bus operator must complete a yearly audit, at minimum, of their management information system and their maintenance management system.

This is to identify any deficiencies and must rectify any deficiencies found during the audit or because of the audit. 


Requesting a review

An internal review occurs when Safe Transport Victoria or a delegate reevaluates a decision made by the Safety Director or a transport safety officer (TSO).

Decisions eligible for review include:

  • Issuing or changing an improvement notice
  • Issuing or modifying a prohibition notice
  • Confirming compliance with or resolution of improvement/prohibition notice requirements.

The TSO’s decision may be suspended while the review is taking place.

An internal review may result in a TSO’s decision being:

  • Affirmed
  • Varied
  • Set aside and substituted with another more appropriate decision.

Download the Application for Internal Review here.