Government still unsure whether bus drivers comply with weight limit

Transport Canberra is still not weighing ACTION bus drivers to ensure they comply with safe working limits, more than six months after the directorate said it was looking at ways to monitor drivers' weights.

In August last year, a Transport Canberra spokesman said it was "working with other ACT government departments on systems and process for monitoring driver body weights".

An ACTION bus, which concerned drivers say is not guaranteed to be safe because there is no requirement for drivers to be weighed. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

An ACTION bus, which concerned drivers say is not guaranteed to be safe because there is no requirement for drivers to be weighed. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

The comments came after The Canberra Times revealed concerns raised by two drivers that going to work was "like playing Russian roulette", because overweight drivers were damaging seats and creating a risk they could "bottom out" or collapse mid-trip.

Comcare accepted liability for a back injury one of the drivers suffered when a seat he had raised concerns about failed during a test run he was directed to undertake in 2016.

Transport Canberra requires drivers to weigh less than 130 kilograms so they comply with the manufacturer's specifications. Driver seats in ACTION buses can hold either 130 or 150 kilograms, but drivers are required to be below the lower limit so they can drive any bus in the fleet.

Despite specifying the 130-kilogram limit as recently as Tuesday, when Transport Canberra launched its latest recruitment drive, the directorate does not know how many ACTION drivers don't comply with the weight limit.

A Transport Canberra spokesman told the Sunday Canberra Times this week no staff, including bus drivers, were being weighed in the workplace.

"Weight alone is not a determinate of a driver’s suitability to continue duties," he said.

The spokesman said Transport Canberra had put in place various initiatives to encourage a healthy lifestyle among staff, including a healthy-eating program and a survey on healthy-living support.

He said there was also a driver-seat-replacement program, through which seats were replaced every four years.

If issues were reported or detected sooner, seats could be reupholstered or replaced earlier.

"Driver weight is a complex issue and there is currently no driving prohibition based solely on a set weight limit," the spokesman said.

"Drivers must be medically fit to drive. Drivers are required to undertake medicals every 12 months. These are also required as part of a driver-licence-renewal process with the RTA which takes place every 24 months."

The spokesman did not directly address a question asking whether a weight-monitoring program would be implemented.

The limit changed from 120 kilograms to 130 kilograms – the same weight as the safe working limit for the driver's seats installed in many public buses – removing a buffer zone despite a warning that overloading the seats could be fatal.