Changes to the Bus Safety Act 2009 and the Bus Safety Regulations 2020 saw the 2-tier (registered and accredited) regulatory scheme for bus operators change into a one-tier scheme (accredited) from 1 March 2022.
If a bus operator was previously registered under the old scheme, they will automatically become accredited from 1 March 2022 and will need to comply with the new regulatory requirements by 1 March 2023.
Anyone wishing to operate a ‘bus service’ from 1 March 2022, including Victorian government schools, is required to be ‘accredited’ with Safe Transport Victoria as the ‘bus service’ is defined as a commercial bus service under the Bus Safety Act, even if the service is provided to students free of charge.
This policy sets out the requirements for schools who purchase or hire buses, operate buses, or charter bus services.
- A bus is any motor vehicle built with seating positions for 10 or more adults (including the driver).
- School councils should seek advice from the Student Transport Unit and obtain approval from their regional director prior to purchasing or hiring a bus, or chartering a bus service.
- Schools who own or hire a bus where the driver is a school staff member must be accredited to operate a bus service (exemptions apply).
- Schools who charter a bus service, including driver, from a private bus operator must ensure the chartered bus operator is accredited.
- Schools who own, hire or charter a bus must ensure the bus services provided to students at their school are managed in accordance with this policy and guidance.
- The requirements for schools in relation to other vehicles are covered in: .
The Bus Safety Act 2009 (Vic) defines a bus as a motor vehicle that has been built with seating positions for 10 or more adults (including the driver). Schools who own or hire a bus where the driver is a school staff member are considered to operate a bus service. The Bus Safety Act (2009) requires all bus service operators, including schools, to obtain accreditation before transporting any passengers (some exemptions apply – see below).
This policy outlines how schools can purchase or hire a bus and obtain accreditation to operate a bus service. Schools seeking to charter a bus service from an accredited bus operator can navigate directly to the chapter of the Guidance tab.
Purchasing or hiring a bus
The decision to purchase or hire a bus must be approved by the school council. Before approving any decision, the school council must:
- confirm that the school has sought advice from the department’s Student Transport Unit on alternative transportation options
- obtain the written approval from their regional director
- ensure that the decision complies with the for schools
- confirm the school is able to meet all costs associated with the decision, including ongoing maintenance costs where applicable
- confirm that student resource package funds are being used appropriately (refer to the chapter of the Guidance tab for more information).
School councils must obtain accreditation from Safe Transport Victoria before using school owned or hired buses to transport students. Accreditation ensures that bus service operators, including schools, maintain a culture of bus safety and continuous improvement, and meet the relevant regulatory requirements.
Exemption from accreditation
A school may be exempt from accreditation if they hire buses from time to time from an operator and the school provides the driver (e.g. one of the teachers).
For example, an exemption may apply where a school hires a bus a few times a year for school excursions and camps and it is driven by a member of school staff. In this instance, the company used to hire the bus is responsible for maintenance and repairs, and the school would still have safety and duty of care responsibilities under the Bus Safety Act 2009.
Schools that own a bus do not qualify for an exemption from accreditation even if they only use the bus from time to time.
Schools should contact Safe Transport Victoria to confirm if they qualify for an exemption.
Requirements before applying for accreditation
After purchasing or hiring a bus, school councils must undertake the following actions before applying for accreditation to operate a bus service:
- ensure the vehicle is maintained in a roadworthy state and registered with VicRoads
- insure the vehicle with the Victorian Managed Insurance Agency (VMIA) – for more information about insurance refer to .
Additionally, considering the use and maintenance of school buses is primarily the responsibility of the school principal, the school council should delegate authority for accreditation compliance to the school principal. This can be achieved through a minuted action at a school council meeting, with bus safety added as a standing agenda item for discussion.
Maintenance management systems and management information systems
As part of the application for accreditation, Safe Transport Victoria requires schools to develop their own maintenance management system (MMS) and management information system (MIS) based on their own operating conditions, risks, incident history and determined safety objectives. The MMS and MIS are unique procedures that set out the maintenance and administrative activities a school must undertake as an accredited bus operator.
The purpose of an MMS is to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that each bus operated by an accredited school is safe and roadworthy whenever it is carrying passengers.
The purpose of an MIS is to ensure accredited schools have a method to produce, maintain and control documents and bus safety records relevant to the safe management of bus operations to ensure ongoing accuracy of data and currency of information.
Once accredited, schools are required to follow the activities listed in their MMS and MIS in order to maintain their accreditation status. Refer to the and chapters of the Guidance tab for detailed guidance on how to develop an MMS and MIS.
Other requirements and considerations for accredited school bus services
In the event that a school is audited by Safe Transport Victoria, please contact the Student Transport Unit for advice.
Schools should ensure vehicles they own, hire, or charter that seat 10 or more adults including the driver have seat belts for all passengers. VicRoads recommends that booster seats or child restraints be used for children under 7 years of age where possible. Visit VicRoads' page for more information.
The Bus Safety Act requires an operator of a bus service, or a procurer of a bus service to, so far as is reasonably practicable, ensure the safe operation of the bus service.
This requires schools and school councils to have a bus risk register and to complete the register for each vehicle in use by the school – refer to the registered bus operator risk register template on the .
Schools must not allow students to drive school vehicles, including buses, under any circumstances.
Emergency management and incident reporting
Schools are required to maintain all records related to the operation and maintenance of their buses in line with the department’s . In addition to the records listed in this policy and guidance, Safe Transport Victoria requires schools to maintain records of the below items:
- the name, address and driver licence number of each person who drives a bus operated by the accredited bus operator
- any document produced as part of the annual audit of bus service operations
- evidence of annual bus inspections
- a fleet register of all the buses that the school operates; .
School owned bus
A bus that is procured using school funds and as such, is an asset of the school.
School hired bus
A hire (or lease) arrangement between a bus supplier and the school so that the school acts as the bus operator (the school provides the bus service). For example, a school hires a bus so that the school can use the bus to transport students and the school provides the driver of the bus. The hired or leased bus is commonly garaged at the school.
School chartered bus
A bus service that is chartered/hired by the school from a private bus operator where the bus operator provides the bus service (bus and driver). For example, a bus service may be chartered for an excursion, sports event or camp.
Management information system (MIS)
A method of producing, maintaining and controlling documents and bus safety records relevant to the safe management of bus operations to ensure ongoing accuracy of data and currency of information required for accreditation compliance.
Maintenance management system (MMS)
A system for ensuring that so far as is reasonably practicable, each bus operated by an accredited bus operator is safe and roadworthy whenever it is carrying passengers.
Licensed bus tester
A person who holds a tester’s licence under Chapter 6 of the Road Safety (Vehicles) Regulations 2009. More information about a licensed bus tester and how to locate a licensed bus tester can be found on the website.
Student Transport Unit
The Student Transport Unit (STU), located within Financial Services Division, Finance, Policy and Infrastructure Services, is responsible for the School Bus Program, Students with Disabilities Transport Program, Conveyance Allowance Program and is the owner of this policy.
Safe Transport Victoria
(previously Transport Safety Victoria), is the statutory regulator managing safety, compliance, accreditation and registration for commercial passenger vehicles, buses and the marine sector.
Bus Safety Victoria
is a branch of STV and is responsible for bus accreditation, regulation and investigation and risk management. BSV can provide information about bus operator accreditation, the application process and your obligations as an accredited bus operator or procurer of a bus service.
Student Transport Unit
Safe Transport Victoria/Bus Safety Victoria
Reviewed 09 November 2022