Abolish audits, keep course


Victoria’s Bus Safety Act is again under scrutiny with BusVic advocating the mandatory operator safety course while calling for audits to be scrapped

Abolish audits, keep course
Abolish audits, keep course

By David Goeldner | July 8, 2011

The bus industry was bought up to speed at the 2011 BusVic Maintenance Conference on recent developments since Victoria’s Bus Safety Act 2009 came into force.

There’s still confusion, and not everyone is happy about the need for re-accreditation under the Act, which requires every operator in Victoria to undertake a series of course modules at Monash University.

A panel of BusVic managers – Stuart Dawson, Brett Gibbs and Peter Kavanagh – was convened to help sort through matters which have muddied the waters.

BusVic Executive Director Chris Lowe gave an account of where operators sit with complying with the Act.

There appears to be two aspects of the Act requiring direct action by operators – enrolling and completing the Monash University operator accreditation course, and assisting Transport Safety Victoria (TSV) with mandatory safety audits at the depot.

While existing accredited operators don’t need to rush off to do the course, BusVic’s advice is to get it out of the way and receive re-accreditation.

The cost of the course is $1500, which Lowe says should be reimbursed by Government to operators.

"It was an unforseen cost of being a bus operator," Lowe says.

He adds that to give operators certainty that they will keep their accreditation is to do the course.

Lowe says under the new legislation, all operators accredited under the old regime are deemed to be accredited for the next five years, but they should still prepare to do the course and prepare their businesses for auditing.

The matter of audits has ruffled a few feathers, with Lowe advocating BusVic personnel be included in the audit process.

What TSV is looking for in the state-wide operator audits is that management systems – MMS and MIS – are in place, along with a safety risk analysis of the operation, and to have a drug and alcohol policy in practice.

"Some operators have told us that the audit is being undertaken in an unnecessary, inconsistent and in some cases a heavy handed manner, and these changes are causing members a lot of anxiety, stress and anger," Lowe says.

He says it’s a valid question that many operators are asking about why they should be reaccredited after having been accredited and operating successfully for many years.

"Its law now so we all have to work through, and hence we have resources to steward operators through the process," he says.

Lowe says that many operators see the changes as ‘revolutionary’ where all that was needed was an ‘evolutionary’ process put in place.

"Continuous improvement is an incremental thing, not so much a transformational thing, and some operators have struggled," he says.

Transport Safety Victoria’s Bus Safety Director Stephen Turner says the concerns raised by operators about what he describes as a necessary ‘evolutionary’ process is unjustified.

"The Bus Safety Act is codification of occupation health and safety law into the bus industry, which is a good thing," Turner says.

"I think operators as they come to grips with this will find a lot of benefits."

Turner says safety is often seen by operators as a cost.

"It is generally a benefit if you do it correctly," he says.

As bus transport grows in importance to Victoria’s travelling public, Turner says the bus industry should embrace the Act and its requirements, not only to improve safety, but demonstrate that improvement in safety.

ABOLISH THE AUDITS

Lowe has suggested to the TSV, however, that the audit should be abolished.

"But I don’t think they will do that, so our second position is that the TSV should fund BusVic to have our association’s staff roll out the new requirements to the industry," Lowe says.

He has suggested to TSV that BusVic staff may be more welcome in bus depots than the regulator’s staff.

"If they don’t support that, then the regulator should fund BusVic to accompany the TSV auditor when they go in to operators’ depots," Lowe says, adding that it may not be necessary for all operators.

Lowe is adamant that the TSV should look to BusVic as the industry representative body to ensure operator compliance to the various new requirements, and that it would be welcome by operators and more cost-effective.

And while Lowe understands that the Act dictates the requirement for the audits to show ‘capacity’ to operate, and demonstrates operator competency through the Monash course, he argues the case against the need for existing accredited operators to reapply for accreditation.

"We are of the view that having to go to the third base and reapply (for accreditation) to the Safety Director, we are suggesting this is surplus to requirements – it’s just unnecessary," Lowe says.

"We believe reaccreditation should be guaranteed and automatic once the audit has taken place and as soon as the operator has completed the course," he says.

Lowe cleared up some matters relating to the steps operators need to take to get reaccreditation.

He says operators need not have completed the audit to enrol in the safety management course.

"This was a misunderstanding at the beginning of the year," he says.

"You can front foot this course whenever you like, fill out the form and apply to be a Monash student at any point, you don’t have to wait for the audit."

BusVic’s Stuart Dawson says there will be a significant time commitment needed by operators to undertake the course, at least one day a week.

"In the last few weeks I have had a lot of people calling me about the course," Dawson says.

"My recommendation is to get into the course folders as soon as you get them because there is quite a bit of reading involved."

He says it differs from the previous Transport Management course.

The first two modules of the new course – required for completion by all operators –

is more aligned to the Bus Safety Act, TSV policy documents and maintenance management systems.

Monash’s course leader Astrid De Alwis told delegates the previous course tested knowledge of the material in the text.

"This situation has changed to meet the requirements of the Bus Safety Act," she says.

De Alwis says TSV approached Monash to make the course practically relevant.

"The course is simple in that it introduces aspects of safety in all its guises wherever you may encounter it so you are prepared to manage risk when and if the time arises," she says.

"Exam questions only require documentation required by TSV which you would have to do in any case."

De Alwis says her team at Monash is happy to serve the industry, and are available to take questions from operators.

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