Bus safety worse, TSV increases scrutiny

Mechanical safety scrutiny on buses will ramp up in Victoria after findings from a safety audit

Bus safety worse, TSV increases scrutiny
Bus safety worse, TSV increases scrutiny

By Ian Porter | May 7, 2013

Transport Safety Victoria has stepped up its supervision of the bus industry after the mechanical safety of Victorian buses deteriorated in 2012.

The proportion of buses that failed in one or more of the 14 inspection areas rose from 25 percent to 26 percent in 2012, according to the agency’s latest safety audit.

Perhaps more significantly, the latest figures show that the proportion of buses that failed in at least one of seven designated critical areas rose from 20 percent to 21.4 percent.

"On face value this may seem high," Transport Safety Victoria (TSV) noted in the Autumn, 2013, issue of its Bus Safety News newsletter. However, the TSV did offer a suggestion as to why the numbers were worse.

Last year was only the second year in which safety audits had been conducted under the Bus Safety Act of 2009, and the first year in which hundreds of newly registered bus operators, possibly more than 1000, were included in the audit.

The 2009 Act greatly widened the definition of bus operator by gathering in all buses down to 13 seats operated by various social institutions like aged care homes, gaming clubs and other suburban organisations.

"The variation from 2011 to 2012 for both the overall inspection areas and the subset of critical defect areas was not unexpected given the several thousand buses operated by registered bus operators that entered the annual bus inspection regime for the first time from the start of 2012," says TSV director of bus safety, Stephen Turner.

"TSV has previously expressed its concern with the overall inspection failure rate," he says. "This concern remains."

"However, two things need to be acknowledged. Firstly, through its ongoing audit and compliance programs TSV is aware of the hard work bus operators are putting into improving the safety of their bus services.

"Secondly, an important component of TSV's audit and compliance program is to confirm that any defect found during the annual safety inspection of a bus is rectified prior to the bus being returned to passenger services," he says.

"An outcome of the analysis of the 2012 inspection data has been for TSV to initiate addition compliance activity focused on operators whose buses were found to have one of more critical defects during their annual inspection. "

The TSV has divided its 14 bus safety audit areas into two sections, with the first seven being deemed critical. These are wheels and tyres, steering and suspension, brakes, brake performance, parking brake, body and chassis and engine and driveline.

The other seven categories are seats and seatbelts, lamps, signals and reflectors, exhaust emission controls, windscreen and windows, windscreen wipers and washers, other items and modifications.

In the latest issue of Bus Safety News, the TSV took some consolation from the fact that not all the safety failures were due to shortcomings in the seven critical areas, even though the proportion of buses that failed in critical areas was also up on the 2011 figures.

"In conclusion, the overall failure rate, when considered through the lens of all 14 inspection areas, has been constant across 2011 and 2012," the TSV says.

"However, considering only those critical defect inspection areas, the failure rate is much lower (than the overall rate)."

It added that the majority of buses that were failed in a critical area only failed in one of the seven critical areas.

"While there are certainly further safety improvements yet to be made across the Victorian bus fleet, indications to date are that the bus industry is working well towards achieving the continuous safety improvement objective of (the Act)."

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