Above board: MRBTA's Matt Norton, Geoff Hard, Neil McLeod, Bus WA deputy chair Ray Gannaway and Vasse MP Libby Mettam.
The Department of Transport have vowed to crackdown on unregistered tour operators in the region who take paying passengers on winery and brewery tours.
Registered tour operators raised concerns with the DOT during a Bus WA forum held in Busselton about an increase in the number of illegal operators who did not have a licence to operate chartered vehicles.
Cellar dOr owner Geoff Hard said illegal operators did not have the correct vehicle insurance nor did they pay for a licence to operate chartered tours.
“They charge a lot less and do not offer a professional service,” he said.
Mr Hard said he had seen illegal operators driving vehicles which were unsafe to transport passengers and were at risk because they did not have public liability insurance to cover them if they were in an accident.
“One operator had a steel belt hanging out of a back tyre and six women on board who were being charged $6.95 per hour to go on a wine tour,” he said.
“We see illegal operators on a regular basis picking up and dropping off customers at wineries, what can be done?”
We see illegal operators on a regular basis picking up and dropping off customers at wineries…One operator had a steel belt hanging out of a back tyre and six women on board who were being charged $6.95 per hour to go on a wine tour.
Geoff Hard, Cellar d'Or Tours
Department of Transport driver suitability services Shelley Shortland said they were building intelligence on illegal operators and had prosecuted a good number in the last six months.
“They get hit hard by the courts,” she said.
Ms Shortland said they were able to conduct covert operations and use false names to bust illegal operators in action and push for prosecution.
She asked people to pass on information about illegal operators in the region so they could help build a case and prosecute people who were doing the wrong thing.
Social media sites like Facebook made it easy for the DOT to get a snapshot of illegal operators and they could easily match profiles with information they received.
DOT director of intelligence and education Lynley Crackel said officers in the department were given the same powers as tax officers, with dodgy operators and bus drivers both at risk of cumulative fines ranging from $500 to $1000 for each offence.
Bus WA deputy chairman Ray Gannaway said to resolve the issue the Department of Transport should issue charter vehicle licence plates to all registered operators so they could be easily identified.