Provision of bus services
Students may be permitted to stand on a school bus once all existing seating has been allocated and only when:
- no student will be required to stand for more than 10 km
- the vehicle has a seating capacity of at least 25 adults
- the vehicle legal weight limit is not exceeded.
The Department of Transport (DoT) must be notified by the coordinating principal where students regularly must stand in a speed zone above 80 km/h.
A student is only permitted to travel between the approved bus stop nearest to their home and school. Requests to access alternative bus stops on the same route can be considered by the coordinating principal.
If school bus loadings are unacceptably high, it may be necessary to reassess the availability of the bus service to those other than eligible students. The coordinating principal may implement temporary arrangements until all available options have been considered.
Temporary arrangements may include:
- extending other services to accommodate students
- adding interchange vehicles between services
- providing extra seating
- running an existing service for a second trip.
Long term solutions may be identified by a review of the network. DoT conducts periodic reviews of school bus networks to ensure efficiency and compliance with this policy. DoT reviews can lead to modifications and additions to services in the bus network. When DoT contact coordinating schools to commence a school bus network review, schools can contact the Student Transport Unit (STU) for assistance during the DoT review process.
Common permanent solutions to overloading issues may include:
- a larger bus
- running an existing service for a second trip
- introducing a new bus service
- permanently changing the route.
Modification of services
Schools in bus networks can apply for variations to bus services via an application to the STU at . The STU will seek advice, if appropriate, from Department regional offices and other schools that might be affected before forwarding recommendations for modifications of services to DoT.
Ineligible students cannot form part of a case for additions, retentions or modifications of services.
A proposal for a new school bus service will be considered if:
- at least 15 eligible students live on or near the proposed route
- at least 11 of the 15 eligible students are enrolled in a government school
- the students do not have access to an existing school bus service or a public transport service that could meet their school transport requirements
- there is anticipated future demand from government school students.
If a new service is approved, DoT is responsible for the final design of the route and contracting a bus operator to provide the service. Eligible non-government school students who live on or near the newly established route can be considered when determining the appropriate vehicle capacity for the service; however it will primarily be designed around eligible government school student demand.
New feeder services
A feeder service is used to deliver students to a major school bus service and may be provided in isolated areas where students cannot be serviced by existing routes. Isolated areas are defined as locations that are geographically, professionally and personally isolating with limited logistic support, limited access to peers, in extreme climatic or cross-cultural environments. Feeder services usually transport relatively small groups of students who would otherwise be severely disadvantaged.
A proposal for a new feeder school bus service will be considered if:
- at least 8 (6 in isolated areas) eligible government school students would use the service
- the students do not have access to a current school bus service or a public transport service that could meet their school transport requirements
- there is anticipated future demand from government school students.
Extensions and variations to existing services
A proposal to extend an existing service will be considered if:
- at least 3 eligible government school students who all live at least 2.4 km from a service to their nearest eligible school will benefit from the extension
- there is anticipated future demand from government school students
- it will not significantly increase the ‘dead running’ time.
Issues that will be considered are the length of the current route and its proposed extension; the effect on current users and the possibility of the extended route encroaching upon a route that services another school. School bus services are not normally re-routed where a majority of government school students would be disadvantaged by the route alteration.
Reductions to existing services
In some instances, the number of students living on a route or a spur extension may decrease. If students live on the line of the bus route, the rules of maintaining a bus service (below) apply – 8 eligible government and non-government school students must remain for the bus to continue. If the number of students living on a spur extension decrease, the same policy as extending an existing route applies to maintain the spur extension (see above) – there must be 3 eligible government school students who live at least 2.4 km from the nearest alternative service.
Maintaining a bus service
Over time students on a bus service may decrease. A bus service will continue to be offered for as long as the number of eligible government and non-government school students who cannot be accommodated on another bus service remains at eight or more. If the number of students falls below eight the bus service will be removed.
Exceptions to the total number of students required to maintain a service will be rare but may occur in isolated areas. Cases are considered on their merits by the STU and DoT.
Altered seating capacity
It may be necessary for an existing vehicle to be replaced due to changed patronage levels. A coordinating principal can submit a report to DoT detailing the reasons for the replacement vehicle. The report should include the bus roll (student names, addresses and year levels).
A student is not permitted to access a bus during dead running time. If a student lives close to a bus service’s ‘dead running’ route, the coordinating principal can put forward a case to DoT for the route to be varied or extended to allow for student access. These are assessed on a case by case basis.
Bus stops must be at least 800 metres apart and established in safe locations where all activities at the stop are conspicuous and visible to road users. There should be sufficient space for parents/carers to wait for or with their children without impeding the safe arrival or departure of the bus and where students can board and alight safely. As far as is practicable, buses should be able to stop clear of passing traffic.
Suitable bus stops can be suggested by the coordinating principal in consultation with the bus operator and DoT. Where required, a site assessment will be sought from the relevant road authority (VicRoads or the local council).
Round routes are bus routes that operate in a loop and finish where the service started. Vehicles on round routes must follow the same direction in the morning and the afternoon. The direction may be reversed at monthly intervals if it is considered appropriate by the coordinating principal in consultation with client schools (where necessary).
DoT and bus operators are responsible for ensuring roads used by school buses are suitable for use in all weather conditions. Any long-term interim, alternative route must be certified by VicRoads or the local council as suitable for school bus traffic in all weather conditions. DoT will provide final approval to alternative route design.
A road or bridge in need of repair should be reported to VicRoads or the local council for urgent attention. If doubt exists as to whether a road has become unsuitable for school bus traffic, the advice of the local council or VicRoads must be obtained by the coordinating school or bus operator as soon as possible and provided to DoT.
A bus service should not be withdrawn from a section of a route except:
- in cases of emergency
- when the appropriate road authority (VicRoads or local Council) is unable to certify that the route is suitable for school bus traffic in all weather conditions.
School bus services may be cancelled by a coordinating government school when the school has a pupil-free day. In circumstances where students who access the bus network still require transport, the coordinating school can agree to operate the bus network. If the coordinating school is closed in this situation, an agreement needs to be made with a client school to act in the coordinating role for that day. DoT and the STU must be notified of this agreement to ensure all parties are aware that bus services will continue to be provided. If a coordinating school determines that school buses will not operate, schools with students requiring transport may wish to contact DoT directly to explore alternatives for transport.
Coordinating schools must liaise with client schools when planning to cancel a service and provide timely advice about any service cancellations (prior to the start of the school term in which the bus service will not run) to client schools, bus operators and families.
The monthly Contractor Payment Claim must be checked by the coordinating principal to ensure that cancelled service days are not included.
Students may be permitted to travel on a school bus to attend a school orientation day if there is space after all students with a higher priority of access have been accommodated. There must be no additional cost incurred by DoT.
Excursions and delays
It is expected that students absent from school on excursions or sports activities will be returned to school prior to the scheduled bus departure times. Should unforeseen circumstances delay a number of students in returning from an excursion, the coordinating principal must decide if the bus service will operate as scheduled.
Factors that will influence the decision are:
- the number of students from other schools requiring the service
- the number of students delayed on the excursion
- the likely length of the delay.
The principals of client schools using the service should be advised if the delay is likely to be significant. Buses should not be unduly delayed for the convenience of a few. Where excursions are planned to return after the scheduled departure time of buses, it is the school’s responsibility to ensure provision of additional bus services or appropriate notification to parents that buses will not operate, is made for those students who rely upon the school bus service.
DoT will not incur any additional expense for the carriage of students unable to use their normal homeward bus service due to returning late from an excursion.
Reviewed 12 September 2021