Bus Operations – 2020 Fast Facts

Fast facts about the bus industry can be accessed by using the above quick-links. These statistics were last updated and verified in October 2020.

The bus and coach industry in Australia is predominantly based around the provision of school bus and public transport (route) services that are provided under state and territory government contractual arrangements. These contracted services are primarily provided by privately owned international and domestic bus and coach businesses.

The industry also provides services in the special school transport, and emerging markets such as aged care and community transport and health and para-transit markets, that are government contracted or privately contracted.

The industry also provides services in the ‘deregulated market’ providing charter, tourism, long distance, mining, correctional and other niche transport services that support other industries.


More than 40% of all commercial use buses on Australian roads are owned by large operators. The private sector is the predominant player in the large operators group.  There are 4 multinationals with a 16% share of ‘commercial-use’ buses and 18.95% spread across several national private companies.

Government bus fleets make up a fraction (7.6%) of the total number of ‘commercial-use’ buses on our roads.

Vehicle kilometres travelled

The average annual kilometres travelled by a bus is 24,600.

Contracted route services represent the most intensely utilised vehicles, at 48,900 km per bus per annum followed by charter activity – 23,600 km pa (coach and contracted government bus operators utilise their vehicles outside of contract service arrangements). Dedicated school services averaged 18,000 km per annum per bus.

50% of total vkms was undertaken in capital cities. The remaining 39% of intrastate travel was shared between other urban areas and other (rural/regional) areas and 12% of travel occurred interstate.

The ACT, SA, WA and NSW have the highest proportion of service kilometres dedicated to route services (40-65%). The NT (9%), WA (16%) and Queensland (17%) show a comparatively low proportion of dedicated school services compared with the rest of the group average of 23%.

On a nationwide level, route services accounted for 35% of all vehicle kilometres travelled followed by school (20%), then charter (18%) and tours (3%).

Cost of operations

The average cost for metro/outer bus operators in Australia for 2017 was $4.58 per service kilometre.

At present, 40% of heavy vehicle costs are recovered as state and territory registration fees.  Depending on the mass of bus and the number of axles the annual registration charges vary from $513 to $2,674. The remaining 60% of heavy vehicle costs are collected through a road user charge applied to each litre of diesel fuel and collected by the Commonwealth government. The 2018-19 road user charge (RUC) was 25.8 cents per litre and has been frozen for the period 2019-20 and 2020-21. The RUC increased to 26.4 centre per litre on July 2021.The total contribution of all buses over 4.5 tonnes gross vehicle mass in 2016-17 in heavy vehicle charges amount to $173.5 million.

Safety record

The odds of a bus passenger suffering a fatal accident are approximately 1 in 150 million.

Deaths arising from crashes involving a bus account for just 0.018% of all total road transport fatalities in 2008-2017.

Data from BITRE for the period 1989 to 2019 shows around 35% of fatalities involving buses occurring on high-speed roads signposted at 90 km/h or higher, and just 12% on local roads with speed limits 50 km/h or lower. Most fatalities (40%) occur on 60 km/h roads.

Who drives the bus

Drivers make up approximately 80% of the labour force in a bus and coach operation, noting that drivers can often take on other roles in an organisation (eg. cleaning, etc).

Bus and coach drivers are aged 56 years on average, as compared to 40 years for the Australian workforce as a whole.

Bus and coach driving is lower skilled work although almost half (48%) have some form of post-secondary qualification. This compares with a working population average of 56%. Certificate III/IV are the most popular of such qualifications and accounts for 22% of all drivers.

Weekly pay of a bus driver is slightly lower than the national average but likely to vary significantly depending on how much overtime and weekend/public holiday work attracting penalty rates is completed.

14% of the bus driving workforce are female compared to a 46.7% national job average.