Tourist coaches fail fire standards

BUS operators have been warned to check their fire safety standards after almost half of tourist coaches failed a fire readiness test in a recent blitz.

The state's transport safety regulator swooped on 40 coaches at the Phillip Island penguin parade on November 30, and found 18 fire extinguishers that had not been checked in the past six months. It also found 11 coaches had no fire emergency plans.

Stephen Turner, Transport Safety Victoria's director of bus safety, said it was disturbing that so many bus operators were found to be inadequately prepared for fire.

"It's certainly a concern. They're required to have an emergency response plan, and the driver needs to understand what that is," Mr Turner said.

Bus operators must also check fire extinguishers every six months.

Mr Turner said tour buses were checked a few times a year at places such as the penguin parade, snowfields and the Twelve Apostles. It was often smaller companies that failed safety tests.

There were 12 recorded bus fires in Victoria in 2011-12. Mr Turner said bus fires were rare, and none in recent years had been fatal.

Chris Lowe, Bus Association Victoria's executive director, said the association had been pushing for more Transport Safety Victoria tests. .

"We're just glad that the safety regulator is finally finding some resources to be getting out in the field and testing," Mr Lowe said. "It's good for public safety."