By: Fabian Cotter

BREAKING: CONFUSION REGARDING 2-axle bus mass limits and their interpretation and legal implementation from a national level to state level is being addressed via an official NHVR Information Sheet, released today.

The NHVR has released an official Information Sheet on 2-axle bus mass limits today, effective July 1.

Perhaps in response to the intense discussion about the topic at the recent Queensland Bus Industry Council’s (QBIC) 2018 Conference – which at times left experts and punters alike flummoxed - the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR)’s information sheet, Mass Limits for Eligible 2-axle Buses under the Heavy Vehicle National Law, addresses any such confusion in the legislation, with changes coming into effect from July 1.

NHVR CEO Sal Petroccitto said the changes would provide nationally consistent mass limits for this class of heavy vehicle.

"Two-axle buses equipped with dual tyres on the rear axle can operate up to 18 tonnes, conditional on the bus being equipped with some additional safety features," Petroccitto said.

"This means buses in South Australia, ACT and Tasmania can operate at the increased mass limit, similar to buses that are currently operated in Queensland, NSW and Victoria.

According to the NHVR, all penalties will increase by CPI and access charges will increase from $72 to $73, also in line with CPI. An access fee will also be applied to all Higher Mass Limit permit applications from July 1.

The NHVR has also provided a summary of some minor changes to the Vehicle Standards, including warning sign requirements for long vehicles and road trains, rear marking plate requirements, condensate drain valve requirements and number plate markings for hydrogen and electric powered vehicles.

As stated, the first round of changes to national heavy vehicle registration agreed to by state and Federal governments will also begin, including:

  • a new national heavy vehicle plate and nationally consistent plate fee in participating states and territories (jurisdictions);
  • more jurisdictions removing heavy vehicle registration labels;
  • the option for fleet operators across all jurisdictions to set common registration expiry dates.

Further changes to the registration system, including free read-only access to fleet registration details on a digital platform will be available later this year, it's claimed.

Australasian Bus & Coach magazine has elected to print the 2-axle bus-related statement in full here, including any important web links supplied.

"Mass Limits for Eligible 2-axle Buses under the Heavy Vehicle National Law


"The purpose of this information sheet is to describe the recent amendment to the Heavy Vehicle (Mass, Dimension and Loading) National Regulation (the MDL Regulation) that introduces a new category of 2-axle bus, an Eligible 2-axle bus, and provides those buses with an 18t mass limit.

"Previously, the mass limit in the MDL Regulation for all 2-axle buses was 16 tonnes. In some jurisdictions, to reflect the increasing average weight of passengers, these buses were able to operate above 16 tonnes under a notice, but were subject to operating conditions that varied from state-to-state.

"This adjusted mass limit has been transferred from the notice to the MDL Regulation to provide the mass limit that was available under the notice to all participating jurisdictions, under harmonised conditions.

"This information sheet will provide guidance to assist bus drivers and operators to comply with the adjusted mass limits and suggestions to streamline roadside interactions with Authorised Officers.

What is an Eligible 2-axle bus?

"Eligible 2-axle bus means a bus with only 2 axles, one of which is a single-drive axle fitted with dual tyres, if the bus is — * one (or more) of the following:

  • a complying bus;
  • an ultra-low floor bus;
  • a bus, other than an ultra-low floor bus, that is authorised to carry standing passengers;

* a bus, other than an articulated bus, whose length is more than 12.5m but not more than 14.5 m; and

* is equipped with certain additional safety features.

"Note: Eligible 2-axle bus is defined in Part 1 section 3 of the MDL Regulation.

 Related article: Read: Bus mass limit rumours confirmed
Related article: Read: Bus mass limit rumours confirmed

Additional safety features

"To be classed as an Eligible 2-axle bus and operate at the adjusted mass limits, the bus must be equipped with the following additional safety features:

For a bus manufactured before 1 January 2016

"Must be fitted with—

* a complying anti-lock braking system (ABS);


* a vehicle stability function that complies with the version of UN ECE Regulation No. 13 that applied to the bus at the bus’ date of manufacture or a later version of UN ECE Regulation No. 13.

For a bus manufactured on or after 1 January 2016

"Must be fitted with—

* a complying ABS; and

* either —   an electronic braking system (EBS); or a vehicle stability function that complies with the version of UNECE Regulation No. 13 that applied to the bus at the bus’s date of manufacture or a later version of UN ECE Regulation No. 13.

"Note: The requirements for ABS can be found in Australian Design Rule 35

"Note: A vehicle stability function is more commonly known as electronic stability control (ESC).

Compliance with additional safety requirements

"When operating an Eligible 2-axle bus the NHVR recommends drivers carry some form of documentation to demonstrate to Authorised Officers that the bus is equipped with the required additional safety features. Providing this information to Authorised Officers at the roadside will streamline and expedite the intercept process.

"Such documentation may be:

* a modification certificate, issued by an Approved Vehicle Examiner, verifying modifications that have been performed to fit the additional safety features; or

* a letter from the vehicle’s manufacturer that identifies the VIN and a description of the vehicle (Year, make and model) and confirming the additional safety features the vehicle  was manufactured with.

Mass limits

"The mass limits for an Eligible 2-axle bus are: 


Figure 1 – Bus operating as Eligible 2-axle bus

"Note: Single drive axle group must be fitted with dual tyres with appropriate load rating. Sum of axles must not exceed maximum allowable Gross Vehicle Mass limit.

Occupant Capacity

"Over time, the mass of passengers has increased, but the mass limit for buses has not. This has meant that for bus operators to comply with their mass limits, they were required to carry fewer passengers which reduced the efficiency of passenger transport services.

"This new category of bus will ensure productivity levels are maintained while improving the safety of commercial passenger vehicles. 

"To assist the bus industry The Bus Industry Confederation (BIC) developed a bus passenger capacity titled BIC Two Axle Bus Operating Mass Calculations to Access 18 Tonne Two Axle Allowances. This document can be found on: www.ozebus.com.au/pdf/paxcalculations-1.pdf

Driver Responsibilities

"Before starting and throughout a journey, drivers must:

* ensure that the vehicle they are driving complies with the relevant HVNL requirements;

* be aware of their responsibilities in regard to the safe operation of the vehicle.

Operator Responsibilities

"Operators should ensure that:

* they have business practices or systems in place to ensure that the vehicle complies with the relevant HVNL requirements, such as vehicle standards, maintenance and mass and dimension requirements;

* the driver is provided with any appropriate documents required to operate the heavy vehicle in compliance with the HVNL;

* the driver is aware of their responsibilities in regard to the safe operation of the vehicle.

Chain of Responsibility (CoR)

"Parties in the Chain of Responsibility who have control or influence over transport activities have a duty to ensure that heavy vehicles, including buses, are used safely on the road. 

"This obligation – known as safety duties – requires risk management to identify and reduce or eliminate risks to safety. Safety is broadly defined and includes protection of road infrastructure by compliance with mass limits. It also includes safety of passengers and other road users.

"Bus operators, as parties in the CoR, must ensure they have systems or processes in place to manage and control the weight carried by buses, including passengers, luggage and any other freight.

"More information about CoR is available from www.nhvr.gov.au/cor.

"It is important to note:

* The mass limits for Eligible 2-axle buses are not intended to increase the existing passenger carrying capacity;

* Regardless of the passenger carrying capacity of the bus, the prescribed mass limits in the MDL must not be exceeded."

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