Coronavirus (COVID-19) information for bus operators

28 July 2021

Information is subject to health advice and can change at any time.

The Premier has announced easing of lockdown measures that will commence from 11.59pm Tuesday 27 July. Scroll to the bottom of the Premier’s statement for the current Table of Restrictions.

CHANGES TO RESTRICTIONS FROM 11.59PM TUESDAY 27 JULY

Intrastate travel limit:

  • Movement between metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria is unrestricted.
  • Travel to regional Victorian Alpine Resorts permitted provided visitors and workers have had a negative COVID test within the previous 72 hours. Children under 12 years not included. Must be able to show evidence of a negative test as condition of entry into ski field.

From 11:59 pm 27 July 2021 COVIDSafe Settings apply across Victoria. These measures will be in place until 10 August 2021.

Bus operators in Victoria must comply with current:

  1. COVIDSafe Settings – which outline restrictions on activity in Victoria – explained on the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Victoria website.
  2. Workplace Directions No. 39 – which outline directions for the safe operation of workplaces in Victoria – explained at the bottom of the Department of Health website's information about Victoria's restriction levels. Please note that Workplace Directions No. 39 will be revoked at 11.59pm on 29 July 2021.

The Workplace Directions provide guidance with regards to the rules of physical distancing so far as is reasonably practical, the wearing of masks when on transport, the use of QR Codes for contact tracing, and COVIDSafe Plan rules for Victorian businesses.

An industry-specific COVIDSafe Plan template for bus operators is available below.

In response to enquiries, bus operators are advised of the following TSV advice, based on the type of service they operate:

Community service bus operation

For community services such as council operated bus services, which includes provision of transport to socially isolated community members, retirement home shuttles, maternal child care and health group travel, are permitted to operate and must comply with the requirements in the Workplace Directions, such as:

  • density limit requirements – including a maximum of 10 passengers on each vehicle
  • signage requirements
  • record-keeping requirements
  • cleaning requirements
  • ensuring a COVIDSafe Plan is in place.

Tourism bus operation

Tourism bus services are defined as those that provide tour destination travel such as trips along the Great Ocean Road, winery tours, to Alpine areas, to mountain bike tracks etc. See also Alpine region services

Tour and charter operators are currently exempt from the requirement to use the Victorian Government QR code system for bus services. See Workplace Directions 6 (11) (i). However, as per Workplace Directions 8 (a) (b), tour and charter operators must use an alternative record-keeping method to comply with the records requirement.

All tour transport is capped at 10 passengers per vehicle, not including the driver, and must comply with the requirements in the Workplace Directions, such as density, signage, record-keeping and cleaning requirements, and have a COVIDSafe Plan in place.

Charter bus services

Tour and charter operators are exempt from the requirement to use the Victorian Government QR code system for bus services. See Workplace Directions 6 (11) (i). However, as per Workplace Directions 8 (a) (b), tour and charter operators must use an alternative record-keeping method to comply with the records requirement.

Chartered bus services for schools are those outside the contracted school bus drop-off/pick-up services that can be hired from operators to provide transport to students at schools for excursions and activities requiring transport and must comply with the requirements in the Workplace Directions, such as:

  • density limit requirements – providing services to authorised providers such as schools has a maximum capacity of 50 passengers, not including the driver, and subject to the vehicle capacity requirements. Otherwise there is a limit of ten passengers per vehicle, not including the driver
  • signage requirements
  • record-keeping requirements
  • cleaning requirements
  • ensuring a COVIDSafe Plan is in place.

Bus operators should also note:

  • Bus operator COVIDSafe Plans should include: PPE requirements (including the appropriate level of face coverings to be worn at the work premises which currently requires face coverings to be worn in all indoor and outdoor settings outside of the person’s home, other than if lawful exceptions apply), hygiene requirements, physical distancing and density quotient requirements, the requirements for implementing appropriate record-keeping processes (which may include the implementation of a QR code check in system), actions taken to mitigate the risk of COVID-19, and the processes in place to respond to any suspected case or any confirmed case of COVID-19.
  • A COVIDSafe Plan should be in place to address vehicles that are owned, operated, or controlled by the employer and is used to provide passenger services, such as a Charter Bus Services. The COVIDSafe Plan should include the measures the employer has in place to manage the risk of COVID-19 transmission in the workplace. COVIDSafe Plans should be reviewed to ensure they remain up to date, and suitable for the current COVID-19 outbreak and related restrictions.

An industry-specific COVIDSafe Plan template for bus operators is available below.

QR Codes on buses

QR codes are recommended for tour and charter buses. It is up to bus operators to determine whether it is reasonably practicable for them to implement a QR system on their services – if it is not reasonably practicable, they must manually record attendance on a bus, and subsequently ensure that this information is stored electronically in the event that it is required for contract tracing purposes.

Please refer to information on the Services Victoria website that provides guidance for QR code requirements

Please note the following from the current Workplace Directions with regards to the requirements for QR codes

Where:

  • (a) it is not reasonably practicable for a person to record an attendance at a Work Premises using a digital system provided by the Service Victoria CEO and other parts of the Victorian Government, or 
  • (b) there is an access issue that prevents a digital system provided by the Service Victoria CEO and other parts of the Victorian Government from operating; then the employer must use an alternative record-keeping method to comply with the records requirement.

Example (2): where a venue has no internet coverage, such as in a remote location, manual records could be kept and stored electronically by the venue.

All advice is general in nature and if an operator is concerned about whether they are in breach of workplace directions, they should seek independent legal advice.

Alpine region services

The Alpine Resorts include:

  • Falls Creek Alpine Resort
  • Lake Mountain Alpine Resort
  • Mount Baw Baw Alpine Resort
  • Mount Buller Alpine Resort
  • Mount Hotham Alpine Resort
  • Mount Stirling Alpine Resort

Travel to regional Victorian Alpine Resorts permitted provided visitors and workers have had a negative COVID test within the previous 72 hours. Children under 12 years not included. Visitors must be able to show evidence of a negative test as a condition of entry into ski fields.

Drivers of vehicles to Victorian Alpine Resorts, such as tour and charter buses, are also encouraged to have a COVID test within 72 hours of departing Melbourne and able to show evidence of a negative test. However, this is recommended and not mandatory. More information relating to drivers of vehicles will be available from 29 July 2021.

Check with the resorts for full entry details and permit requirements.

Further information on travelling to regional Victoria can be at the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Victoria website, Travel restrictions.

Operators must comply with the requirements in the Workplace Directions, such as:

  • density limit requirements – a limit of ten passengers, not including the driver
  • signage requirements
  • record-keeping requirements
  • cleaning requirements
  • ensuring a COVIDSafe Plan is in place.

Also refer to bus safety in hazardous areas for guidance on the Hazardous Area Authority, 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.

Refer to VicRoads Authority to drive in hazardous areas for information including the rules and training requirements.

Route services

Route services are an essential service and can continue to operate during this time. COVIDSafe Settings still apply, which means face masks must be worn at all times and passengers must check-in when using the service using QR codes provided.

You must also continue to adhere to vehicle cleaning regulations, detailed on the CPVV website.

Interstate travel

Please check with other state and territory authorities in case of border restrictions or controls:

Airport shuttle bus services

Operators transporting passengers to airports are advised that Australian state border restrictions and entry requirements are in force – and that these requirements may impact your passengers.

TSV recommends that airport shuttle operators remind their passengers that passengers are responsible for checking Australian state border restrictions and requirements that may apply to them prior to boarding a shuttle service. Sharing this reminder will help reduce confusion and potential restrictions breaches.

Furthermore, TSV recommends that operator COVIDSafe Plans are updated to reflect advice regarding state border restrictions is issued to passengers prior to boarding.

Up-to-date information on restrictions and requirements for all Australian states can be found on the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Victoria website - Travel Updates.


Masks, tests and vaccinations

Mask requirements remain for drivers and passengers (aged 12 and over) on all types of buses including public transport, tour transport, community service, and school buses.

Visit the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Victoria website for information about:

Bus drivers

Bus drivers are eligible for coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination

Please refer to the CPVV website for more information about the vaccination program

Crew transportation

Any worker that transports international arriving crew or passengers from a port of entry (Avalon Airport, Melbourne Airport, Port of Melbourne, Geelong Port, Port of Hastings and Port of Portland), is required to regularly be tested for coronavirus (COVID-19).

More information regarding tests can be found on the Victorian Government coronavirus website.

Passenger information

Do I still have to wear a mask on Tour and Charter Buses?

Yes. Masks must continue to be worn on tour and charter buses as per the Chief Health Officer’s directions.

While masks are no longer mandated in most circumstances, the evidence is clear wearing a face covering makes a real difference in slowing the spread of the virus – so masks continue to be recommended indoors or outdoors when distancing can’t be maintained.

We are working closely with all transport operators, the Department of Health and Human Services and Victoria Police to ensure our services are safe for everyone to use. Victoria Police are responsible for enforcing the Chief Health Officer’s directions.

COVIDSafe Plans

It is mandatory for every Victorian business to have a COVIDSafe Plan.

If you are currently operating a bus service, you must have a COVIDSafe Plan outlining how you will address these six key areas:

  • physical distancing
  • masks and personal protective equipment
  • hand hygiene and sanitising
  • record keeping and acting quickly if workers become unwell
  • interactions in enclosed spaces
  • workforce bubbles

Please use our COVIDSafe Plan template DOCX, 95.4 KB for bus operators.

The template provides support to bus operators as they create, or further improve, their COVIDSafe Plans in accordance with current regulations and guidelines.

If you are not currently operating, you are encouraged to start developing your plan, so it is in place when your bus service resumes.

If you already have a COVIDSafe plan we strongly recommend you read the sample plan and add any additional control measure you had not considered.

As every bus operation is different, it is important that you make your plan relevant to your business.

You are not required to recreate your plan if you already have one

  • This sample plan has been developed to assist the bus industry to flexibly respond to industry requirements designed to reduce the risk of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Victoria.
  • All COVIDSafe plans must be living and dynamic documents that respond to advice from the Chief Health Officer. They must not be regarded as a ‘set and forget’ component of business operations.

Next steps

  • You will be contacted by TSV about submitting your plan for auditing purposes. You don’t need to do anything now; you will be notified by email when you are required to start the plan audit process.
  • The type of service you are providing will determine if and when TSV requests your plan.

Important

If you would feel more comfortable having your plan audited prior to being asked by TSV to submit it, please request this by emailing your plan to information@transportsafety.vic.gov.au.

Please note

  • TSV compliance officers and other authorised agents will conduct ongoing random spot checks for COVIDSafe Plans so make sure you have one.
  • You may be required to provide your COVIDSafe Plan to the Department of Health and Human Services or WorkSafe including in the event of a confirmed positive case at your workplace.
  • Your COVIDSafe Plan should be reviewed and updated routinely, including when restrictions or public health advice changes.

Tools available on the Victorian Government’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) website.

This link will help you prepare a COVIDSafe Plan and assist you determining how to manage the risk of spreading coronavirus (COVID-19) so far as is reasonably practicable when providing bus services:

This link contains important information related to the transportation of horticultural workers:

Additional information

You can find Public transport advice on the Department of Transport's Coronavirus (COVID-19) webpage.

Visit the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) website for information on:

The fluid nature of advice and updates related to coronavirus (COVID-19) increases the likelihood of TSV needing to contact you quickly. You can update your email address details by contacting information@transportsafety.vic.gov.au.


First published: 26 March 2020

Frequently asked questions for Transport Safety Victoria (TSV) bus industry stakeholders regarding operations during a pandemic.

Bus safety operations

Can I operate a bus service? 

  • Route bus services and rail replacement bus services are still in operation, with physical distancing measures in place.
  • Some school bus services are still operating for students whose parents can’t work from home, and vulnerable students without access to a suitable learning environment at home. Small groups of VCE and VCAL students can also attend on-site for short periods if their learning requirements cannot be conducted at home. Operators of bus services for these groups will need to adhere to the physical distancing measures in place as far as practicable.

The DHHS Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) page is the best place to start for the latest government advice on coronavirus.

Driver accreditation fees are currently being waived, and CPVV is not issuing certifications of accreditation or invoices. How can an employer validate whether a driver’s accreditation is valid?

  • Bus operators can search the CPVV public register using the driver’s six-digit accreditation number. Even though CPVV is not issuing certificates of currency or invoicing for fees, drivers’ current accreditations can be validated by this register. The register also provides the beginning and end date for the current accreditation.

Incidents

Who do I speak to if I need to report a bus incident?

  • The procedure to report a reportable bus incident remains unchanged. Contact the Bus Safety Duty Officer as soon as practicable on 1800 301 151 and follow up your verbal report with a written report within 72 hours.

Audits

Are you still going to be doing audits over the next few months?

  • Yes, however our approach to this work will adapt to the changing circumstances. Desktop audits conducted via Skype (where possible) or by telephone will be the way that audits will initially be undertaken.
  • We have been trialing this over the past two weeks and are seeing effective outcomes from this approach. In some cases, we will be following this type of audit up with a face to face visit when life goes back to normal later this year.

Can I ask for an auditor to come and visit me at my premises?

  • For the time being, it is our preference that audits are undertaken as described above – by Skype or by telephone.  You can at any time speak to an auditor about any concerns you have.  If you don’t have a contact name and phone number of an auditor, call 1800 223 022 and follow the prompts to be connected to the Bus Safety officer, who will then connect you with one of our auditors.

Inspections

Will Annual Inspections and Vehicle Safety Inspections continue to be required in a pandemic situation?

  • TSV acknowledges a recent downturn in the international and domestic tourism market has had a significant impact on operation of bus fleets in Victoria. To reduce the financial impact on their businesses from current events, TSV understands bus operators may not be currently operating one or more buses in their fleet at this time.
  • In response, TSV is providing the following guidance on your Annual Safety Inspection and Quarterly Vehicle Safety Inspections (VSI) requirements:

Annual Safety Inspections

  • Accredited and registered bus operators must ensure that each bus used to provide a bus service undergoes a safety inspection annually.
  • TSV reminds operators that any bus currently being used to provide a bus service must have an Annual Safety Inspection which has been undertaken within the previous 12 months.
  • However, if a bus due for an annual inspection is not currently being used to provide a service, you are not required to undertake an inspection on that bus until it is once again being used.
  • When the situation changes, and the bus is used again (even for one trip) you must ensure a current annual inspection has been undertaken on the bus, if the annual inspection would normally have been due.

Vehicle Safety Inspections

  • Accredited operators must complete VSIs as per their Maintenance Management System.  These are generally required on a quarterly basis.
  • However, if a bus due for a VSI is not currently being used to provide a service, you are not required to undertake an inspection on that bus until it is once again being used.
  • When the situation changes, and the bus becomes operational (even for one trip) you must ensure a current VSI has been undertaken on that bus, if the VSI would normally have been due.
  • If you have recently (within the previous 3 months) undertaken an Annual Inspection, then a VSI is not required. However, a VSI is not able to be substituted for an Annual Inspection.

Do I need to service the fire extinguishers fitted to my bus if the bus is not currently operating?

  • You do not need to service your bus fire extinguishers if you are not currently operating your buses. When you begin operating your buses again (even for one trip) you will need to ensure your bus fire extinguishers have been serviced.

What do I do now with my fire extinguishers that are on buses that are not currently operating?  

The accepted temporary process for fire extinguishers that are not being used in operation is to:

  1. Note the date at the start of the non-operation of each affected fire extinguisher.
  2. Note the date when the affected extinguisher has been serviced when it is put back into service.

These two notations of relevant dates are evidence that the fire extinguisher has met its fit for purpose requirements.

What should operators do now?

Unused buses

  • The accepted temporary process for buses that are not being used in operation is to:
    1. photograph the odometer and note the date at the start of the non-operation of each affected bus
    2. photograph the odometer again when the affected bus is put back into service and note the date.
  • These two photographs with the notation of relevant dates are evidence that the bus has not been operating.
  • If you would prefer to use another method of providing this evidence, then please call us to discuss (contact details below).

What about insurance or financing implications?

  • It is often the case that an operator’s insurer requires that actions like quarterly and annual inspections are undertaken, and any other requirements of a regulator are met. This might also be the case for financing companies.
  • As such, TSV strongly encourages you to talk to your insurer, bank or finance company to ensure you are clear on their requirements for quarterly and annual inspections.

What is TSV doing to ensure the safety requirements are being met?

  • When typical operations return to the industry, the Bus Safety audit team will focus on the buses that followed the accepted temporary process as described above.  Where non-compliance with the above requirements is detected, enforcement action may be taken.
  • This action is intended to support operators at what is currently a challenging time for the bus industry.  However, ensuring the safety of bus operations remains our priority. Operators are reminded that all other provisions of the Bus Safety Act 2009 and Bus Safety Regulations 2020 remain in force.  During this time, our bus safety audits continue, via methods such as Skype conferencing and telephone conferencing.
  • If you require further information, please contact Tim Pullyblank, Manager, Audit on email tim.pullyblank@transportsafety.vic.gov.au or call 0419 517 746.

What requirements do bus operators have with regards to keeping risk registers?

  • These requirements are unchanged.  We strongly encourage operators to ensure they have adequately identified and responded to emerging risks, including those that result from a pandemic, and that they are managing these risks so far as reasonably practicable.

Accreditation and registration

The cost of bus operator accreditation application and annual fees in 2020-21 remains the same as 2019-20 amounts, as part of a state government fee freeze.

I have a new application for accreditation or registration.  Will you be able to assess it and accredit/register my bus service?

  • We will be doing everything we can to ensure that operators who want to become accredited or registered in the coming weeks and months are able to do so.
  • We will assess each application on a case by case basis and will do everything we can to support operators in this position.

Who can I talk to about my application for accreditation or registration?  

  • If you have questions about an application for accreditation or registration, speak to Julien Pezzino, Manager Accreditation and Registration, on 0408 364 649.

Can I put my accreditation or registration on hold for a period of time?  

  • There is no provision to do so under the relevant Bus Safety legislation. However, we encourage you to speak to us about how we can support you to reduce your regulatory burden and costs of operation during this time.

Compliance

Will you be monitoring compliance in the field as usual?  

  • Our compliance activities will also reflect the unique circumstances currently experienced.  We will continue to monitor issues related to safety of bus services and will respond appropriately.

I have an improvement notice in place and current circumstances are making it difficult or impossible for me to rectify deficiencies in the required time. What will the consequences of this be for my operation?  

  • We recognise that current circumstances are presenting unique challenges to operators.
  • If you are having an issue rectifying previously identified deficiencies, speak to the auditor who placed the improvement notice. We will work constructively with you to develop a suitable approach. This may include extending the period of time for your improvement notice.

Who do I talk to if I want to report an unsafe operator or other concern?  

Impact to BSV business operations

Will Bus Safety Victoria be operating throughout the pandemic response?

  • Yes, the Bus Safety branch of Transport Safety Victoria remains open for business. We have tested our capability to work effectively from home and we are confident we will be able to continue to provide services as required, in the coming weeks or months.

Will TSV staff still be contactable via their regular means? Where will TSV staff be located?

  • Staff can still be contacted on their usual phone numbers and email address.
  • Staff are currently divided between our office at Exhibition Street and working remotely. If that situation changes and we are required to remain working remotely, TSV is confident our essential bus safety work will continue.

I need to talk to someone from Bus Safety Victoria and don’t know who to contact – who can I call?  

  • If you need to talk to someone about a bus safety matter or an issue related to your operation and don’t already have a point of contact, call 1800 223 022 and follow the prompts to be connected to a member of the bus safety team.
  • If the matter is an urgent one, speak to the Bus Safety Duty Officer on 1800 301 151.

The latest government advice

A bus on a Melbourne road