NSW contradictory regulations

By: Amie Hickland

New South Wales regional and rural operators unable to comply with ADRs, left confused

Conflicting regulations have left New South Wales rural and regional operators with uncertainty around the right protocol for 3 for 2 seatbelts.

Transport for NSW (TfNSW) are phasing in seat belts on about 1700 Rural and Regional (contract A) buses, by an accelerated replacement program - replacing the oldest not seat belted buses with new seat belted buses.

In doing so the NSW government required the seats and belts to be compliant with Australian Design Rule (ADR) 68 however they also require the seats and belts be able to accommodate three primary school children on a seat designed for two adults.

BusNSW Executive Director Darryl Mellish says these two requirements are not compatible, as ADR 68 only deals with two occupants.

"Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) have indicated 3 for 2 seats don’t comply with ADR 68, and hence operators/suppliers do not want to be at risk of not complying with the government’s position on ADR 68."

Mellish says in general NSW operators do not want 3 for 2 seat belts.

He says pre-seat belts the State Government supported 3 for 2 to count how many primary school students could be carried on a bus.

This counting method allowed a lot of students to fit on each bus and reduce the number of buses needed. 

Mellish says the lack of clear technical and policy settings has left regional and rural operators in a state of confusion.

"TfNSW were asking for something RMS indicated was not compliant," he says.

"The NSW Centre for Road Safety has given TfNSW a different opinion on the relevance/compliance of ADR 68."

The process for sorting out the issues is not clear and now National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) is being contacted by RMS regarding an exemption for ADR 68.

"There are a number of 3 for 2 buses in use and owners/suppliers need to know where they stand," says Mellish.

 "TfNSW are trying to find a way to allow 3 for 2 to continue with seat belts, but may stop mandating them in the future – i.e. only require them in certain circumstances for example to save an additional bus if an alternate seating solution can't be found to cater for passenger demand."

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