Mechanical failure caused coach fire

The fire that destroyed a Lodges Bus Service coach on the Hume Highway while carrying Xavier High School students on March 20 was due to unpreventable mechanical failure.

The bus caught fire after the main oil supply line to the turbocharger worked loose, a report on the accident released last week said. That had allowed oil to escape under high pressure and spray the hot turbocharger and exhaust. Oil had leaked for several kilometres before the back of the bus exploded near Wodonga.

Students, teachers and the driver escaped unharmed, but the Volvo coach was written off.

The Office of Transport Safety report found Volvo had no procedures to recheck the turbocharger oil supply line. It said the turbocharger had never been serviced nor had its fixed bolts been rechecked for tension.

It said Lodges Bus Service did “most of the servicing on the coach, guided by the Volvo maintenance program”.

Lodges told the safety office that had Volvo had a retensioning program in its servicing regime, they would have carried out that procedure.

Owner of Culcairn-based Lodges Bus Service, Brad Lodge, said the report confirmed the fire was an accident. “As the report concluded, it was an unpreventable mechanical failure involving the turbo. We’ve got very high safety standards and we’ll continue to uphold those standards. The manufacturer’s specifications are all we can go off as operators and we’ll continue to take advice from manufacturer’s specifications.”

The coach had passed a NSW Roads and Maritime Services heavy vehicle check for re-registration eight days before the fire on March 20.

The report said a check on the integrity of the turbocharger and oil line during routine servicing, and the use of a thread-locking system, was appropriate to prevent a similar fire.

Volvo Bus Australia general manager Peter Duncan said the company took findings from investigations seriously and would look closely at the report’s findings. He said it was too soon to say whether Volvo would change its servicing procedure.

The report said no further investigation was required. Its findings have been passed to the Independent Transport Safety Regulator and Transport for NSW.

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