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School operations

Vehicles (including Buses) — Owned or Hired by a School

Policy

This policy sets out the requirements for schools and school councils in relation to any vehicles owned or hired by the school, including buses. Where the driver of the vehicle is a member of school or Department staff, this policy should be read in conjunction with the Department’s policy and procedure on Work-Related Driving.

Summary

  • School councils may purchase or hire vehicles for school use including a bus to provide a bus service to students.
  • School councils must obtain approval from their Department Regional Director to purchase any vehicle.
  • School councils must ensure that any purchase of a vehicle complies with the Department’s Procurement — Schools policy.
  • School councils must insure all school owned vehicles with the Victorian Managed Insurance Agency (VMIA).
  • School councils may use a bus owned by the school council to operate a bus service.
  • School councils operating a bus service (which includes community and courtesy bus services provided free of charge) for students, must ensure:
    • they are appropriately registered or accredited with Bus Safety Victoria as the bus operator, according to the type of bus service that the school is providing, and
    • that licensing, insurance and roadworthy requirements are met
  • School councils must ensure vehicles they own, use or hire that seat up to 12 passengers have seat belts or restraints for children under 7 years of age.
  • Schools can also procure a bus service from a bus operator. Schools and school councils must seek confirmation from bus operators providing bus services to the school that their bus and driver meet all accreditation and licensing requirements by requesting from the bus operator copies of their certificate of accreditation and certificate of currency.

Details

School owned vehicles

School councils must:

  • obtain the prior written approval of their Department Regional Director before a school council purchases any motor vehicle, including a bus
  • ensure that any purchase of a vehicle complies with the Department’s Procurement Policy for schools
  • register all school-owned vehicles with Vic Roads
  • maintain all vehicles in a roadworthy state
  • insure all school-owned vehicles with the Victorian Managed Insurance Agency (VMIA). For more information about insurance refer to Insurance for Schools or contact roleff.michael.j@education.vic.gov.au

Schools must not allow students to drive school vehicles, including buses, under any circumstances.

Accreditation and registration requirements when running a bus service

Under the Bus Safety Act 2009 (Vic):

  • a bus is defined as a motor vehicle that has been built with seating positions for 10 or more adults (including the driver)
  • a school council that owns or hires a bus and transports passengers in it, using a driver provided by the school, is operating a ‘bus service’. This includes:
    • community and courtesy bus services provided to students free of charge, and
    • commercial bus services provided to students for a fee
  • a school council running a bus service is required to be either ‘accredited’ or ‘registered’ with Bus Safety Victoria depending on the type of service it is providing.

The section below sets out when a bus operator must be either registered or accredited, depending on the type of bus service being operated.

Scenarios requiring Registration:

  • Schools operating their own bus service to transport school students to and from school for no fee or a fee for cost recovery only.
    In this case, the school council is the bus operator. Registration is required because this is a community and private bus service under the Bus Safety Act.
  • Schools operating their own bus service solely for transporting students and staff on school related activities (for example, excursions), where students are not charged a fee.
    In this case, the school council is the bus operator. Registration is required because this is a community and private bus service under the Bus Safety Act.

Scenarios for Accreditation:

  • Schools operating their own bus service to transport school students to and from school for a fee.
    In this case, the school council is the bus operator.​ Accreditation is required because this is a commercial bus service under the Bus Safety Act.
  • Government contracted school service, where the Victorian Government contracts a bus operator to transport school students to and from school (for example, the Students with Disabilities Transport Program (SDTP) or School Bus Program (SBP)).
    ​Accreditation is required because this is a commercial bus service under the Bus Safety Act. In this case:
    • the contracted third party must be accredited as the bus operator
    • the Department is the ‘procurer’ of the service and must ensure that the contracted bus operator is accredited
    • the school must comply with the relevant SDPT and SBP policies.
  • School bus services funded by the school, where the school council itself has a private arrangement where it pays a bus operator to provide transport services to and from school. Accreditation is required because this is a commercial bus service under the Bus Safety Act. In this case:
    • the contracted third party must be accredited as the bus operator
    • the school council is the ‘procurer’ of the service and must ensure that the contracted bus operator is accredited.

Schools can access further information about bus operator registration and bus operator accreditation, including the application process and obligations as a registered bus operator and obligations as an accredited bus operator at Bus Safety Victoria - which is part of Transport Safety Victoria (TSV).

Safe maintenance of school-owned vehicles

  • School councils must meet all costs of the purchase and maintenance of a school owned vehicle.
  • School councils must insure vehicles they own with the VMIA.
  • Schools and school councils must ensure that each bus owned by the school council used to provide a bus service is inspected annually by a licensed bus tester. Schools can locate licensed bus testers through the Bus Safety Victoria site on Annual bus safety inspections.
  • School councils who are accredited bus operators (i.e. school councils operating a commercial service according to the table set out above) must also develop a Maintenance Management System (MMS). Schools can access information about MMS requirements at Bus Safety Victoria.
  • School councils must maintain roadworthy vehicles and ensure repairs are completed as soon as possible by a qualified mechanic.
  • School councils must maintain records of any such works.

School hired bus services – for private use and school charters

The Bus Safety Act defines the procurer of a bus service as:
'a person who charters a bus service or otherwise engages with an operator for the purposes of using the bus service, whether or not the provision of the bus service is on a commercial basis.'

  • A ‘procurer of a bus service’ will generally have influence over the schedule, route, type of bus and the fare a passenger may or may not be expected to pay. However, they are not the operator of the bus service and do not provide the driver.
  • Whether or not the provision of the bus service is on a commercial basis, if a school council intends to procure a bus service, the school council has certain safety duties under law.
  • So far as is reasonably practicable, schools and school councils must ensure the safe operation of the bus service. 
  • A procurer (i.e. a school council) would contravene this duty if they procured the bus service on terms that impose conditions or obligations which prevent or threaten, or are reasonably likely to prevent or threaten, the safe operations of the bus service.
  • School councils must only hire accredited, insured and roadworthy vehicles.
  • School councils must seek confirmation from hired bus operators that their bus and driver meet all accreditation, licensing and insurance requirements by requesting from the bus operator copies of their certificate of accreditation and certificates of currency.

Child restraints

Schools must ensure vehicles they hire, use or own that seat up to twelve passengers have seat belts or restraints for children under 7 years of age, visit VicRoads' child restraints page.  

Risk management

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.

Accordingly, school councils owning or chartering a bus must use the Department’s Risk Management Process when assessing the risks for bus safety.

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 Bus Risk Register under the Resources tab.

Schools and school councils must take steps to address risks of a driver being impaired by fatigue. This may involve schools limiting the number of driving hours of a driver (taking into account any secondary employment of the driver that may contribute to driver fatigue) and/or seeking confirmation from a bus operator that it has appropriate fatigue management processes in place for its drivers. Refer also to Work-Related Driving for information on driver fatigue management.

Driver licensing

VicRoads is responsible for the licensing of drivers in Victoria and providing advice on the types of licenses required to drive a variety of vehicles including buses used for school excursions and other events.

For further information visit VicRoads' License Categories page.

Definitions

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 Bus Safety Victoria site.

STU
Student Transport Unit, located within Financial Services Division, Finance, Policy and Infrastructure Services

TSV
Transport Safety Victoria, the independent statutory office established under the Transport Integration Act 2019 (Vic), which provides information about bus operator registration and accreditation, the application process and your obligations as a registered bus operator or procurer of a bus service.

VicRoads
VicRoads is Victorian road and traffic authority responsible for the arterial road network and driver licensing and vehicle registration.

Relevant legislation

Department policy on vehicles (including buses) owned or hired by schools

Reviewed 12 September 2021

Policy last updated

13 September 2021

Scope

  • Schools
  • School councils
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