A Race Against Time: Bus Suppliers Pull Together

For the start of school this year, 27 Volvo buses made their way down from Melbourne to Adelaide covering 700km of road. The long snake-like train of identical white buses must have been a one of a kind sighting for normal traffic making their way along the Western National highway.
Since late last year, South-Australian bus operator, LinkSA, has ordered 39 Volvo B7R buses to enter service under the DECS (Department of Education and Children’s Services) private school bus contracts in regional South Australia. Since most of the buses had to be up and running for the start of the school year 2012, stringing along the delivery process was no option. Under the management of John Louder, Volvo Bus and Coach Sales Manager at CMV, the delivery in long convoys became a race against time.

 

“Apart from two school buses delivered in October 2011, the next 27 had to be registered and in place during the month of January to commence work on the first day of school”, says Louder.

 

Out of the 27 orders, the final four had only come out of body production four days before the deadline. “LinkSA placed a very sharp deadline on delivery times and we at Volvo were determined to achieve the deadlines set” says Louder.

 
Founded in 2008, LinkSA is a newly formed business combining the operating services of Murray Bridge Passenger Services and Barossa Valley Coaches. The company provides school bus services contracted by the Education Department.

 
LinkSA is a member of the Australian Transit Enterprises (ATE), which operates a number of public transport operations throughout Australia. With its long commitment in providing quality transportation to regional South Australia, the success of LinkSA is based on high customer focus that is built around three core values: comfort, reliability and safety.

 

“Our business is not just buses, information technology or engineering, our business is people. We focus on ensuring we employ locally and work with local companies to deliver high quality services. Delivering excellent customer service is the overarching criteria on all aspects of our business” says Mark Dunlop, General Manager of LinkSA.

 

The Volvo B7R was an ideal fit to cater to these demands. “The Volvo D7E engine has outstanding fuel economy, reliability, low emissions with all of the safety features you would expect from a modern day vehicle” says Louder.

 
In choosing the right school bus, LinkSA considered intended life, areas of operation, the serviceability of both chassis and body, the availability of spare parts and service expertise. “We believe the Volvo B7R / Volgren school bus combined with Volvo’s excellent after sales support will enable us to provide the required longevity and safety in delivering high quality services to the Department Education and Children’s Services” says Dunlop.

 

The Volvo B7R chassis were built with Volgren bodies and fitted with McConnell seats in Melbourne and had to be then transported to Adelaide. “Working closely with our partner suppliers, we worked throughout the weekend to have the final four pre-delivered, seats fitted and ready to be driven to Adelaide overnight on Tuesday for the 8:00 am deadline the next morning” says Louder.

 

Apart from the final four, 21 completed vehicles were ready to be transported to Adelaide in convoys of 11 and 10. The next challenge was to find drivers that would volunteer to do the drive.

 
Bus suppliers pulled together to make the delivery deadline. “It was a real suppliers’ convoy with most of the participants coming from the companies that supplied features of the vehicles”, says Louder, who also drove in the convoys.

 

Among the volunteers were hands-on director of ATE, Wayne Mountjoy, and his wife, Chris, who did not hesitate to nominate their involvement in the delivery process. “There was a sense of excitement for us, the opportunity for a road trip at the end of the year of hard work was just too enticing,” says Mountjoy.

 

 The history of ATE began as a vision in the early nineties of an Australian answer to the growing power of the multinationals. The first tender was won in 1994 in Adelaide and the company has enjoyed success ever since.

 

“I sincerely believe we care about what happens to our people and the systems we operate. Our operations are much more to us than just pins in the world map, we want to be part of the system and add value to it,” says Mountjoy.

 

The Mountjoys were not new to the Melbourne-Adelaide drive, but the 11 vehicle convoy was a new experience. “I had not been involved with such a large convoy before and it was interesting how the vehicles spread out over time, but soon gathered once the lead stopped” says Mountjoy.

 

Accompanied with fine weather, the journey ran smoothly. “The combination of the B7R and the Volgren body is a nice vehicle to drive. I was genuinely surprised just how easy they were to drive with the auto transmission and cruise control”, says Mountjoy.

 

In Adelaide the trip continued up to Elizabeth, where the convoy was faced with the challenges of city driving. “I was surprised how the well the vehicle handled the city traffic. The easier I fed in the power, the better the ZF EcoLife transmission performed, “says Mountjoy.

 

Thanks to the joint effort of all of the bus suppliers and operators involved, the 27 buses were delivered on-time and ready for their registration appointments for the start of school. LinkSA remains satisfied with its choice. “Our customers and our drivers have all commented on the quality of the vehicles and the excellent ride” says Dunlop.

 

In contrast to bus services that are traditionally operated with old vehicles nearing the end of their useful life, the new buses are transporting children in regional Adelaide to and from school in seat belted, air conditioned comfort and high degree safety.

 

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