TSV reaches rural Vic

By: Randall Johnston

Transport Safety Victoria (TSV) hosts bus operators at bus safety forum in Shepparton

TSV reaches rural Vic
Bus operators from all around the Shepparton district gathered to attend the TSV Bus Safety Forum

About 15 bus operators gathered to discuss bus safety and compliance with Transport Safety Victoria (TSV) officials, safety educators and heavy vehicle police at the Shepparton RSL last month.

With the December 31 deadline for accreditation fast approaching, TSV expressed concern that up to 12 Goulburn Valley operators are yet to apply for accreditation.

This was the first regional TSV forum to include a presentation by a member of Victoria’s heavy vehicle police, who are at the coalface of enforcement.

Victoria Police Heavy Vehicle Unit officer Robert Long told operators at the forum he is often shocked by the non-compliance and blasé attitude of bus drivers.

Long is one of just 24 enforcement officers, who are dedicated to checking heavy vehicle compliance and on the road throughout Victoria 95 per cent of the time.

"We’ve found about 65 per cent non-compliance with bus drivers with their work diaries with hours of driving and fatigue," he says.

Once heavy vehicle police start getting the same sort of problems with the same operator, a chain of responsibility investigation is triggered and the unit’s powers are far reaching.

"We are the only area of the police force in the state that has right of entry without a warrant and will ask to have a look at your records and you have no refusal rights," Long says.

"That’s never going to happen unless you have an accident or serious injury collision, but there have been four fatalities last year involving buses, two were not the operators fault, but two were.

"You must take reasonable steps to ensure your driver does not drive while fatigued."

Many bus drivers work for other operators on their days off and by doing so may be in breach of fatigue management laws.

Another common issue heavy vehicle police are seeing is bus driver work diary entries that do not accurately represent driver activity.

"Some work diaries might as well have once upon a time written on them – we are seeing a lot of false entries," Long says.

"Drivers not record their pre vehicle inspections of refuelling, but anything to do with the bus is work and must be recorded I the work diary.

 "It’s more the causal drivers who are likely to likely to flout the law and become a problem for operators.

"The main thing is to be observant of your drivers before they go out on the road, because you as operators are responsible."

Schedulers are responsible for managing driver fatigue and in some cases indirectly cause speeding, if a driver hasn’t been given enough time to reach their destination.

The Goulburn Valley operators in attendance had no shortage of questions for TSV representatives at the bus safety forum.

One big issue for them is poor placement of bus stops and council creating road infrastructure with no thought given to the provision of bus services.

TSV is in contact with councils to ensure they know and comply with the legal requirements in regard to the correct placement of bus stops and related road issues.

Shepparton area operators are also concerned about the lack of regulation for registered operators compared to accredited operators.

Registered operators often include the likes of compliant backpacker accommodation providers, fruit picker employers and schools that are just taking the kids to the pool, for example, rather than doing full school pick-up runs.

There is also concern that people are hiring buses without the required license and taking passengers up to the ski fields, as well as popular tourist destinations throughout Victoria.

TSV deputy director bus safety and manager of audit, and host of the forum, Shaun Rodenburg took the time to explain the new TSV safety audit program that comes in to effect on January 1 next year.

"We classify bus operators according to their risk profile," he says.

"We look at the environment in which they operate and their compliance performance, now we’ve added their ability to manage risk and an objective overview of their health and safely chart.

"This allows us to create a profile and assign a priority to them.

"It will give bus operators a very clear picture on how well they are complying, how well they are managing risk and their safety culture."

TSV has a team of seven bus safety auditors, four in metropolitan Melbourne and three covering regional areas.

"Bus safety is a shared responsibility and we have developed guidance material for bus operators," Rodenburg says.

"People even ask us to come and audit them, which sound strange, but it’s fantastic because that says to me they have a good safety culture."

"It’s especially important now as local bus operators risk losing their businesses, and in some cases their livelihoods, if they fail to become accredited by December 31 this year."

Monash University Institute of Transport Studies spokesperson John Clements agreed time is running out, explaining that completing its bus safety management course is required in order for to become accredited.

Applications for the next course intake closed on October 2, the next course starts on November 2 and the written exam is in February.

"So if you are still only deemed accredited with TSV, you have a serious problem because that is after their deadline," he says.

"If you are in this situation you need to get in touch with TSV as soon as possible."

TSV manager of compliance and information Andrew Chlebica reminded operators of the need for school buses of the new requirement to have appropriate school bus blinker lights and the maximum safe carrying capacity displayed and also explained TSV’s method of audit.

Essentially, TSV received data from licensed bus testers on a monthly basis.

The organisation analyses this information, looking for trends to see if bus operators are failing in similar areas.

If there are recurring issues, then TSV follow the matter up with the operator.

TSV also do random compliance inspections at popular tourist areas and has stepped up this kind of activity this year.

Chlebica reminded operators they must report incidents verbally to the TSV duty officer on the 24 hour line, then email or fax the incident report form to the organisation within 72 hours.

TSV manager accreditation and registration Julien Pezzino spoke about the need for straggling operators to gain their accreditation before the December 31 deadline and to advise the organisation to any changes to bus service type.

"If you have any change of service type it’s important to let TSV know," he says.

"Sometimes registered operators are required to become accredited operators if there’s a change in circumstances."

Bus operators who offer hire and drive services must ensure the person they are hiring to is either registered or accredited.

"If you’re unsure, we can provide information as to if a person is or isn’t registered," Pezzino says.

"If they aren’t you can put them onto us and we can persuade them not to drive and go for a charter service instead."

PTV relies on operators who know the rules to explain these to anyone looking to hire any bus that requires the driver to be registered, Pezzino says.

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