The National Transport Commission has announced that state and federal transport ministers have approved an increase in the gross mass limit for three-axle buses from 20 tonnes to 22 tonnes.

The NTC’s acting CEO, Dr Geoff Allan said the increase in mass limit will bring Australia standards more in line with international counterparts.

“In recent years, bus mass has increased due to regulatory requirements to provide specific mobility, safety and environmental improvements, and the increasing weight of adult Australians and their luggage,” Dr Allan said.

“Australia’s 20 tonne limit was on average more than four tonnes lower than similar countries,” he said.

The NTC said that there are currently more than 2200 three-axle buses registered in Australia, providing tourist services, long-distance services, metropolitan and regional scheduled services and school transport.

The NTC commissioned Taverner Research to investigate the size of the problem and the reasons behind it.

“Multiple industry sources contend that the gross loaded mass of three-axle buses is likely to often exceed the current allowable limits, particularly for route services during peak times,” Dr Allan said.

“We have been setting the maximum number of approved passengers based on outdated data of the average weight of Australians, which has increased over time,” he said.

He also cited the increasing weight of wheelchair lifts as an example of additional weight.

“When you combine the weight of the lift, and specialised doors and glazing, this equipment can add one tonne to the weight of the bus.”
The NTC recommended the increase to 22 tonnes following the research and consultation, and this will mean other states and territories are now in line with New South Wales’ recent move to increase mass limits on three-axle buses.

The increase will take effect once the Heavy Vehicle (Mass, Dimension and Loading) National Regulation is amended, which is expected to be in 2019. To access this increase, there are additional safety requirements to be met, which are set out in the decision Regulation Impact Statement.

The decision Regulation Impact Statement and the Taverner Research Report are available on the NTC