BIC raises concerns over GVM limit increase

By: Chris Thompson

Bus Industry Confederation says passenger limits also need to be imposed

The Bus Industry Confederation (BIC) has raised concerns about an amendment to two-axle bus gross vehicle mass (GVM) limits.

Under Heavy Vehicle National Law, the GVM has been increased from 16 to 18 tonnes in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria, effective August 24, 2016. 

The two-axle GVM limit was raised to account for the average weight of Australians being higher than the average the passenger capacities were based on.

BIC executive director Michael Apps says the problem doesn’t lie with what changes were made, but rather with what changes weren’t.

That is, while the GVM limit has been increased, there has been no change to how passenger capacity is calculated. This remains unchanged in Australian Design Rules (ADR) at 65kg, substantially below Australians’ average weight of 80kg.

"The notice has increased the mass limits from 16 tonnes to 18 tonnes, but has not imposed any requirement to retain existing passenger capacity," Apps says.

"What it effectively allows is for an operator or manufacturer to see how many more seats they can fit in the box."

Industry doesn’t want to see more people on each bus, as the current passenger capacities are quite safe, Apps says.

He says the only reason the weight limits should increase is so that operators and drivers are not worrying about whether a full bus is over the GVM limit.

"If there was an accident, who’s legally responsible if the bus was overweight?" Apps asks.

"It just doesn’t fix the problem of being overweight at 16 tonnes, all it does is increase the passenger capacity to fit as many people in as you can, and then you’re overweight again."

Apps adds the limits imposed on other bus axle groups should be raised so all buses are covered.

"We want all the bus axle groups to have their mass increased because the weight of an average Australian today is 80 kilos, and we want to be operating legally 100 per cent of the time," he says.

At the higher mass limits buses can operate on all roads in Victoria and NSW. However, some Queensland councils have placed limitations on where the buses can travel.

Additionally, ABS/EBS conditions apply to operate at the higher mass limits in Queensland and NSW, but no conditions apply in Victoria.

Apps argues there should be no road access restrictions as the buses won’t actually be carrying any more weight than they already are. He says the issue is based around road wear, which will remain the same.

"If you don’t increase the number of people being carried, there won’t be any extra road wear," he points out.

"All we have been seeking is to make buses compliant in terms of legal mass limits."

Apps says the laws need to take the pressure off operators and drivers, who can’t keep track of a bus’ GVM.

"We’re not the fat police … we aren’t going to determine who can or can’t travel on the bus," he says.

"Bus drivers can make a call on when the bus is full to its legal passenger capacity, but they’re not going to be weighing people or determine who can and cannot travel based on their size."

BIC understands NSW roads minister Duncan Gay will call on other ministers to support for the BIC position to increase the mass limit for all bus axle group types. 

This will include two-axle, three-axle, double-decker and articulated buses.

It will also include the amendment of the Australian Design Rule to calculate passenger capacity on 80kg instead of 65kg. 

"This is great," Apps says, "but it will take time."

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