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John Duffy was a free-lance, commentary coach captain based on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, who offers a range of services to the coach and bus industry. He trains and assesses drivers and bus companies [including tourism], and provides transport consultancy services. He authored the "Australian Bus and Coach Drivers Guide" as a training resource. He is the first ever Certified Passenger Professional, CILTA Professional of the Year and TLISC Road Transport Trainee of the Year.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Driving Controlled Access Buses under the HVNL

Driving Controlled Access Buses under the HVNL

All rigid coaches over 12.5m (up to 14.5m) are Controlled Access Buses, or as we call them in the industry, "stretches".  As such, they need permits under the HVNL as Operating under vehicle standards exemption.

Section 81 Contravening condition of vehicle standards exemption emphasises:
  • A person must not contravene a condition of a vehicle standards exemption.
  • A person must not use a heavy vehicle, or permit a heavy vehicle to be used, on a road in a way that contravenes a condition of a vehicle standards exemption applying to the vehicle
The maximum penalty for this offence is $4000, but the infringeable offence (ie. "ticket") is $426 (HVNL, 2016).

Section 82 Keeping relevant document while driving under vehicle standards exemption (notice) explains:

  • The driver must keep a relevant document in the driver’s possession. 
  • A driver must comply with the condition. 
  • If the driver does NOT comply with the conditions, each relevant party for the driver is taken to have committed an offence
  • Any CoR party charged with this offence does NOT have the benefit of the mistake of fact defence
  • The CoR party charged has the benefit of the reasonable steps defence, if it can be proven the CoR did everything reasonable to stop it.
Each offence will present an infringement penalty of $320, with a court imposed maximum of $3000.

Who is a Relevant Party?

A relevant party, for the driver of a controlled access bus, means:

  • an employer of the driver
  • a prime contractor of the driver, if the driver is a sub-contractor/freelancer
  • an operator of the bus

So what is the Relevant Document?

According to the HVNL, a relevant document is either a Commonwealth Gazette notice for the exemption (based on the vehicle standard), or an information sheet about the exemption published by the Regulator on the Regulator’s website.

These permits (authorisations to drive a "stretch") are available on the HVNR website as:

National class 2 heavy vehicle controlled access bus authorisation (notice) 

National class 3 heavy vehicle controlled access bus rear overhang dimension exemption (notice)

These are a single document located at:

Please note: You must be using the current Schedules 2, 3,and 6.

These are available at: 

This document provides access to the individual state and territory Transport Department links of maps and zones you can and can not drive a "stretch".  These state documents need to be carried  for every state and territory they will be travelling in.

There is also an accompanying Information Notice that needs to be carried.  

If you want to drive a controlled access bus on a unapproved route, the operator needs to apply for a controlled access bus permit from the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator portalhttps://www.service.nhvr.gov.au/

If you want to drive a "stretch" on an unapproved route in WA or NT, you will need to apply directly to the respective Transport Departments.


A driver may carry these in electronic format, so long as if questioned by an authorised officer (Transport, Police or NHVR) they can produce it.  This means they may be readable (carried) on a smartphone or tablet.  This can save a massive amount of paper being carried around the countryside.

It is also requires the driver to carry these documents PLUS the documents for every state and territory they will be travelling.

It is essential operators train all staff (drivers, route planners and managers) in the Chain of Responsibility obligations of this aspect of the HVNL.  The training and it's refreshing needs to be documented (with the signatures of the trainees) regularly (eg. annually).  This contributes to the "reasonable steps" defence protecting the CoR parties.


Heavy Vehicle National Law (Queensland) 

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