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Blitz nets breaches

Transport Safety Victoria is maintaining pressure on bus operators to lift safety compliance

By Ian Porter | October 27, 2013

Transport Safety Victoria has kept up its pressure on bus operators to lift their safety compliance with a recent blitz at Melbourne’s Tullamarine airport, finding more than half the buses inspected were in breach of safety regulations.

Working in conjunction with the Taxi Services Commission and VicRoads, Transport Safety Victoria (TSV) inspected 71 buses large and small, run by both accredited and registered operators.

TSV found that 41 of the buses had not had their fire extinguishers serviced within the mandated period. In addition, 11 of the buses did not have their emergency management plans on board and as many as nine had not been given a pre-trip inspection at the start of the day.

“That’s a little higher than we have observed previously,” TSV’s Director of Bus Safety Stephen Turner says.

“So it’s an area that we will give further attention to.”

Turner indicates TSV would continue to press the industry on its compliance with safety regulations.

“I think we just have to apply enough regulatory attention to the industry to make them understand they are required to comply with these requirements.”

Turner says Tullamarine airport was selected because many buses of different types use the area – accredited, registered, coaches, and 12 seaters.

“We also pick up route service buses because they go to that area as well.”

TSV conducts similar swoops in other popular destinations, too, like the Penguin Parade at Phillip Island, the 12 Apostles on the Great Ocean Road and, in season, the snowfields.

Turners says TSV works in conjunction with the other authorities so, together, they can gain a more complete picture of bus safety and because the TSV is not empowered to check on some issues.

“In some instances we don’t have the power to check on certain things. For example, we don’t regulate driver accreditation for bus drivers. That’s a Taxi Services Commission requirement.

“By having the TSV officers there at the same time we can actually optimize the regulatory effort without unduly inconveniencing the operators. We’re getting more things done over a shorter period.”

Turner says TSV was formed to regulate bus operators, and that is where its power lies.

“So, if we find a driver that doesn’t have driver accreditation, or fatigue management requirements such as a work diary, we go and check with the operator, because the whole Bus Safety Act is focused primarily on the operation of buses.

“Our role is to go and check with the operator. By working with these other agencies we can actually have these things checked and assured at the same time, without having to put that extra burden back on the operator to provide additional information after the actual event.”

Turner says that, as well as random swoops on sites like airports, ski fields and beach locations, TSV also keeps a watching brief on persistent trouble spots.

“We also have other ongoing activities to deal with, particularly when we get complaints about the operation of buses or bus operators,” says Turner.

“We have been looking for some time into some operators offering services in the Yarra Valley winery district, where they may be operating buses larger than their permission allows at the moment.

“There are lots of operators out there that are using small buses and occasionally, if they get a bigger order, they might go and hire a (larger) bus and go and operate that bus. Obviously we have to gather the evidence for that before we can take action.”

Turner says TSV expected operators to rectify the types of breaches found during the Tullamarine blitz within a day or two.

“After that particular activity we follow up with the operators in the next few days. And most of those things are simple, they are not too difficult to rectify. So we expect the operators to take action immediately.

“Sometimes you come across more difficult issues. Our first effort is to work with the operator to achieve compliance, as opposed to taking enforcement action. It is much preferable from our perspective for the operator to operate safely.”

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