Buses superb on safety

Results of the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) National Roadworthiness Baseline Survey show only 2 per cent of buses checked had major non-conformities

Buses superb on safety
A break down of major non conformities by heavy vehicle type


The NHVR coordinated a National Roadworthiness Baseline Survey of 7,130 heavy vehicles-combinations across Australia between August and November last year, but the results have only just recently been released.

Throughout the survey period 364 transport inspectors inspected rigid trucks, semi-trailers, B-doubles, road trains, buses and special purpose vehicles (SPV) at 168 inspection sites, including roadside check points, in state inspection facilities and transport operator depots.

The data clearly shows that the buses and coaches that were inspected were much more compliant with safety regulations than all other heavy vehicle types.

Only 147 of the 11,066 vehicle units inspected were grounded. Major non-conformities create a critical concern over the safety of a vehicle and the vehicle must not be used on the road while the non-conformity exists.

When viewed on a ‘per unit’ basis, non-freight vehicles (bus and coach) had the lowest rates of major non-conformity.


Australian fleet relatively safe

The results place Australia well when compared with the UK and US, who had substantially higher rates of non-conformity amongst their national fleets.

Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester says the results of the survey will provide further focus on inspection programs and help measure improvements in the mechanical condition of the heavy vehicle fleet.

"As a baseline of the fleet’s condition, the survey’s results will help the NHVR develop a national risk-based inspection approach to address high-risk components, systems, vehicles and operators.

"It will also help develop a consistent inspection approach.

"We’re working in partnership with the NHVR, state governments, various state organisations and with the heavy vehicle industry to reduce road trauma.

"These survey results are a great tool for the NHVR to use to improve safety and efficiency in the heavy vehicle sector, which of course improves safety for all motorists."

NHVR CEO Sal Petroccitto says the survey results will allow operators to update programs to ensure they address high-risk components and systems that are regularly found to be an issue during on-road inspections.

"The NHVR wanted to understand the rate of major non-conformity," Petroccitto says.

"Where Authorised Officers found major non-conformities the majority were assessed as safe enough to continue their journey but required repair within a specified period of time.

"The rate of major non-conformities in the Australian fleet compared well to the UK which had a 35 per cent major non-conformity rate and to the US where about one-fifth of vehicles inspected are grounded.

"However, with the average age of the fleet at nine years, reducing the rate of major non-conformity in older vehicles will be an area of focus.

"Interestingly we saw a significant increase in the maintenance performance for vehicles in the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme.

"It is pleasing to see that the scheme is delivering and continuing to demonstrate the value it provides to fleet safety. It is evidence of the NHVR’s hard work in delivering improvements to the schemes operation.

"Another first was the use of the National Heavy Vehicle Inspection Manual to provide nationally-consistent inspection standards. This consistency is something industry has asked for over many years and is a key objective of the Roadworthiness Program.

"I’d like to thank the 407 officers who worked 1049 shifts across 237 inspection sites throughout Australia to deliver this important national safety initiative."


National bus fleet snapshot

National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) spokesperson Peter Austin pointed out that the national bus fleet is highly compliant, compared to freight trucks, while speaking at the Bus Industry Confederation National Technical and Suppliers Summit in Canberra way back in February this year.

As it turns out, his statements are accurately reflected in the final survey that was released just last month.

"What we did with the National Baseline Survey has never been done across the jurisdiction," he explains.

"We made sure we got a representative sample of the entire vehicle fleet and there is no prevalence of major defects within the national bus and coach fleet.

"We will have a webinar after the release of the survey that will allow us to talk to industry about what we should do moving forward.

"The buses we tested performed very well; the average age of the buses we tested was 9.8 years."

The largest area of fault NHVR found while conducting its survey testing on buses was related to brakes.

"We need to make sure that our responses are based on the level of risk and we need to make sure that we are being consistent in terms of our inspections," Austin says.

"We are still looking at post-July 2018 when we can implement recommendations that come from the baseline survey, so we’re still in the early stages.

"In the future we do want to conduct more baseline surveys."

The NHVR now plans to target its regular scheduled and random roadside inspections based on the perceived level of risk throughout the rest of this year.

The survey will be used to develop programs using evidence and risk-based analysis of the survey data. Two such approaches will be a risk-based inspection and a consistent inspection framework.

There is also work being undertaken in the NHVR’s Roadworthiness Program to develop a national approach to the management and clearance of defects.

Further information about the survey results and the full report can be found at www.nhvr.gov.au/nrbs



Some key findings from the report are:

  • 7130 vehicles inspected, made up of 11,066 vehicle units
  • Younger vehicles were five times less likely to have a major non-conformity than vehicles 10-years and older, and 11 times less likely to have a major non-conformity than 13-year-old vehicles
  • 11 per cent of hauling units and about 14 per cent of trailers recorded a major non-conformity
  • 147 vehicle units were grounded, making up 1.3 per cent of the vehicles units inspected  
  • Brakes had the highest rate of major non-conformity, followed by steering and suspension, lights and reflectors, engines, drivelines and exhausts.

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