COVID-19 information for bus operators
17 August 2022
For current COVIDSafe settings that are current as of 11.59pm, Friday 22 July 2022 please refer to coronavirus.vic.gov.au.
For current worker vaccination requirements refer to coronavirus.vic.gov.au/worker-vaccination-requirements
Current DHHS guidance relating to the wearing of face masks on public transport, including please refer to the Public Safety Order 2022 (Number 3).
COVID-19 vaccinations for bus drivers
Help keep yourself and your passengers safe by staying up to date with your COVID-19 vaccinations.
All bus drivers are currently eligible to receive a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
Getting vaccinated protects you against COVID-19, helps prevent you from getting seriously ill and reduces the spread of COVID-19 to others.
COVID-19 vaccination requirements
It is a Department of Health requirement that workers must have a minimum of three doses of a COVID-19 vaccine if they:
- directly provide a service to a person with a disability; or
- supervise or manage another person who directly provides a service to a person with a disability.
If you provide any services to people with a disability, you may fall under these directions.
There is no longer any requirement within pandemic orders for bus drivers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 if they do not fall into the above categories.
However, there are obligations under health and safety laws for employers to provide a safe working environment, and we recommend that drivers keep their vaccinations up to date to provide safe services.
COVID-19 vaccination policies are the responsibility of individual workplaces.
For more information and definitions, visit worker vaccination requirements. (https://www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au/worker-vaccination-requirements)
COVIDSafe Plans are still required for businesses. Bus operators are encouraged to review and update their COVIDSafe Plans regularly.
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 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.
Victorian Government tools
- Information and resources to help your business prepare a COVIDSafe Plan
- For horticultural worker transport: Agriculture, forestry and fishing sector guidance
Plan checks and updates
- 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 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.
Advice for types of bus service
Tour and charter buses
COVID-19 related capacity restrictions have been lifted from all bus services including tour and charter operations. Whilst adhering to vehicle capacity limits, physical distancing between passengers is encouraged where possible. Drivers, and passengers (over the age of 12 years) are required to wear a mask while travelling, unless able to provide proof of a valid medical exemption.
Community transport services
COVID-19 related restrictions for community transport services (not for profit groups providing transport services to the elderly and special needs groups) include the requirement for passengers over the age of 12 to wear a mask whilst travelling, unless able to provide proof of a valid medical exemption.
Maximum passenger capacity of the vehicle is applied, with consideration for physical distancing between passengers when appropriate.
As per the restrictions applied to all essential services, there is no requirement for passengers to show proof of being fully vaccinated.
COVIDSafe Plans must be in place at all times.
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 coronavirus.vic.gov.au - Travel Updates.
Please check with other state and territory authorities in case of border restrictions or controls:
Testing, masks and taking care
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 coronavirus.vic.gov.au for information about:
- COVIDSafe Settings
- When to wear a face mask
- Business and work – including Sector guidance
- Travel updates
- Victorian Travel Permit System
Rapid antigen testing
Businesses can deploy rapid antigen testing as an additional tool to screen for COVID-19. Currently businesses will need to self-fund implementation. Rapid antigen testing needs to be supervised by a health practitioner and any positive tests need to be followed up with a PCR test.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) provides guidance on implementing rapid antigen testing for businesses. The guide is available on the TGA website. Further guidance on implementation is also available on Victoria’s Department of Health website.
Take care on the roads
With people able to freely move between regional and metropolitan Victoria, drivers are reminded to be careful on the roads, particularly as the general public may not have driven significant distances in some time.
You can find public transport advice on the Department of Transport's COVID-19 webpage.
Visit the Department of Health website for information on:
The fluid nature of advice and updates related to COVID-19 increases the likelihood of TSV needing to contact you quickly. You can update your email address details by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
FAQs: Updated 3 November 2021 and reviewed 25 July 2022
Frequently asked questions for bus industry stakeholders regarding operations during a pandemic.
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 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:
- Note the date at the start of the non-operation of each affected fire extinguisher.
- 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?
- The accepted temporary process for buses that are not being used in operation is to:
- photograph the odometer and note the date at the start of the non-operation of each affected bus
- 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 video and telephone conferencing.
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.
I have a new application for accreditation. 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?
- If you have questions about an application for accreditation or registration, speak to Julien Pezzino, Manager Accreditation, on 0408 364 649.
Can I put my accreditation 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.
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?
- Either speak to your normal auditor, email us on email@example.com or phone 1800 223 022.
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.