Response to bus industry about COVID-19

26 March 2020

Updated: 1 July 2020

Refer to the current Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) travel advice, including actions for transport carriers.

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.

Refer to the DHHS actions for transport carriers

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

  • The Bus Safety Act 2010 (Vic) requires that 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 2010 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