COVID-19 information for bus operators

21 September 2021

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

From 11:59pm on Sunday, 19 September, lockdown restrictions will be in place for metropolitan Melbourne and the City of Ballarat, Greater Geelong, Surf Coast and Mitchell Shire Local Government Areas (LGAs).

Bus operators can find relevant information and links from the coronavirus.vic.gov.au website below. Links will open in a new window.

More information on the restrictions in metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria is available in the COVIDSafe Settings.

Regional Victoria restrictions

For current restrictions in regional Victoria, see How we work: regional Victoria and How we live: regional Victoria.

Metropolitan Melbourne restrictions

In metropolitan Melbourne and the City of Ballarat, Greater Geelong, Surf Coast and Mitchell Shire Local Government Areas (LGAs), you cannot leave your home other than for one of the six following reasons:

  • shopping for necessary goods and services
  • caregiving or compassionate reasons, including medical care or to get a COVID-19 test
  • authorised work (with a permit) or permitted education
  • exercise (once a day for up to 4 hours, and that 4 hours includes any time spent outdoors socialising in limited groups)
  • outdoor social interaction in limited groups (once a day for up to 4 hours, and that 4 hours includes any time spent on exercise)
  • to get a COVID-19 vaccination (provided the distance travelled, and the time taken is no more than is absolutely necessary)

In addition, there is a curfew in metropolitan Melbourne from 9pm to 5am, with very limited reasons to leave the house. See How we work: metropolitan Melbourne and some areas of regional Victoria and How we live: metropolitan Melbourne and some areas of regional Victoria.

All bus charter vehicles and bus drivers providing services in Victoria must carry an Authorised Worker Permit when working and when travelling to and from work. If you are a sole trader, you can issue a work permit and sign the permit as both the employer and employee.

Chartered bus services are considered an authorised provider/worker for the purpose of transporting groups of employees to be tested/vaccinated.

Information from the Authorised workers list confirms the activity of a private bus company/driver to transport groups of employees to be tested/vaccinated.

Authorised workers list Includes:

  • commercial operations that supply goods or service necessary:
    • for the implementation of measures to limit the spread of COVID-19; or
    • to support any business activity that may be carried out in accordance with these directions; or
    • to support the export of goods and services from Victoria; or
    • Example: manufacturing of personal protective equipment or hand sanitiser.

It’s also important to note the driver and business must also comply with all other COVIDSafe measures including a COVIDSafe Plan and COVID-19 cleaning requirements below.

Chartered and community bus services are considered an authorised provider/worker for the purpose of providing care services for people with particular needs.

Information from the Authorised workers list confirms the activity of a private bus company/driver to transport passengers with particular needs.

The list includes:

  • public transport, including taxis, rideshare services, and other public passenger services

For purposes of:

  • care services for people with particular needs because of homelessness, family violence, age, infirmity, disability, illness or a chronic health condition or other essential support services;

Example: Family violence and sexual assault services, Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations, Agencies carrying out essential relief activities, including Neighbourhood Houses.

  • the conduct of essential adult and higher education services pertaining to the following occupations and activities:

(please note this is not the full list, all of the occupations and activities can be found on the Authorised workers list)

  • study for final year pre-service early childhood and school teachers (including placements); or
  • final-year higher education students (i.e. in TEQSA-regulated courses), who do not have alternative options to complete their study by end of year; or
  • for the purposes of undertaking a prescribed examination or assessment, where not practicable to provide remotely, or
  • to support service delivery on site for vulnerable students in higher education and training, where not practicable to provide remotely; or…

It’s also important to note the driver and business must also comply with all other COVIDSafe measures including a COVIDSafe Plan and COVID-19 cleaning requirements below.

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 the guidance for Victorian Government QR code services.

Please note the following from the current Workplace Directions (available on the Department of Health website) 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.

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.

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 (TSV guidance below) 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.


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 COVID-19 Victoria website for information about:

Bus drivers

  • Bus drivers are eligible for COVID-19 vaccination

Please refer to the COVID-19 vaccination guidelines.

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 COVID-19.

More information regarding tests can be found on the Victorian Government COVID-19 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.

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 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 COVID-19 website.

This link will help you prepare a COVIDSafe Plan and assist you determining how to manage the risk of spreading 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 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 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.

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

How should bus operators report a bus incident?

Audits

Are you still going to be doing audits?

  • Yes, however our approach to this work will adapt to the changing circumstances. Desktop audits conducted via video (where possible) or by telephone will be the way that audits will be undertaken.
  • In some cases, we will be following up this type of audit with a face-to-face visit when possible.

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 video 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 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.

Accreditation and registration

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 divided between our offices (when possible) and working remotely. Our essential bus safety work continues.

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.

A bus on a Melbourne road