Queensland operator shows what can be achieved when staff put the growth of the business first, writes
When GlasshouseGl Country Coaches ( GCC) depot supervisor Sam Pearson first joined the Cavbus Group about a year ago, he had to convince a few staff that more flexibility from them was needed in order to help GCC move ahead, particularly when it came to charter work
You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, they say. This, however, is a notion that has been proven wrong in human history. Wherever there have been people resistant to the idea of change, or the need to nd a better way of doing something, there too have been people willing to challenge the status quo – no matter how uncomfortable or ill-received this was.
Ideas that seem foreign at rst may be the perfect solution; it just takes a little faith and a lot of hard work to bring them to life. When Glasshouse Country Coaches (GCC) depot supervisor Sam Pearson rst joined the Cavbus Group about a year ago, he had to convince a few staff that more exibility from them was needed in order to help GCC move ahead, particularly when it came to charter work.
A lot of Pearson’s day is taken up with rostering because things are constantly changing as they take on charter work, which obviously affects other scheduled jobs.
“It would be great to do the rostering a week in advance, but you just can’t do that when you’re doing charter work, taking on jobs and trying to accommodate people at short notice as well,” Pearson says.
“There’s no point doing the roster days in advance, because all you end up doing is going back and changing it several times over, and that’s no good for anyone.
“I try and do it so our drivers know what their schedule is for the next day by the time they get back from their school runs.”
Charter drivers need to accept that jobs may be booked at short notice, and naturally the more work coming in, the better off everyone is.
“Drivers have to be exible when they’re working for someone who does charter – it’s just the nature of the beast,” Pearson says. “Glasshouse is going to move ahead over the next few years, it’s already starting to happen with the amount of new work we’re getting from our local schools.”
A TIGHT SCHEDULE
A small-to-medium eet size means the team has to be very careful with scheduling.
“With 28 in the eet you start pushing it a bit, you have to be really smart with your scheduling, otherwise you’re going to run into problems,” Pearson says.
“It helps to have a great team of drivers that are experienced and professional, GCC is lucky in that respect.”
“Charter customers appreciate the time and care taken and our willingness to meet their speci c needs, rather than having the attitude that one shoe ts all. Not just from the of ce, but from the whole GCC team.
“We try to be very exible when it comes to charter work, even if we are super busy, we’ll try to nd a way to make it happen.” GCC is owned by the Cavbus Group, which has two other Queensland based bus and coach businesses ( Logan Coaches and Beaudesert Bus Service) so on busy days, GCC is able to call upon their resources to assist.
The key to school charter success is a combination of exibility, reliability and having friendly and accommodating drivers.
“We have a good relationship with the schools around here and we strive to meet their expectations,” Pearson says.
“You’ve just got to work with them, and not turn down work just because you’ve got a few other charters on that week.”
The company hasn’t drawn a line on how far it will go to for a charter in regard to distance.
“I’m not going to turn down jobs that aren’t local, because at the end of the day a charter is priced on distance travelled and time taken, but I’d much rather concentrate on the customers in our local area and provide the best service we can,” Pearson says.
There is a lot of competition for charter work on the Sunshine Coast, and particularly in the Hinterland area, but the organisation prefers to compete on service delivery, which is the core focus, rather than price alone.
“We don’t try to be the cheapest,” Pearson says. “Our focus is to provide the best service possible while remaining exible enough to cope with last minute changes. That’s why our customers stick with us.”
The simple philosophy of making the process easy for clients has helped keep Glasshouse on the right path.
NEW ROUTE SERVICE
The Nambour Station to Maleny via Montville service was on trial for eight years before being introduced as a permanent service in April this year, and is now a Q- Connect service supported by the Queensland Government, with no changes to the trial route, stops or timetable.
There has been a slight increase in fares, which rose about 30 cents for adults to match the existing 891 Maleny to Landsborough and 892 Landsborough to Beerwah services.
Transport and Main Roads ( TMR) staff had a community information event at the Maleny IGA in late March and also rode the Nambour Station to Maleny bus to inform the travelling public of the upcoming changes.
Eight years is a long time for a bus service to be trialled, but according to Pearson, Translink likes to be sure a service will be well patronised before it is permanently adopted, especially in regional areas.
Pearson was raised in Gin Gin, Queensland, where his father ran a school and charter business in Bundaberg.
“Dad’s rst bus we refurbished from the ground-up in the back yard. Its rst job was the Sydney 2000 Olympics,” Pearson says.
“I remember when I was in pre-
school, mum used to drop me off and dad would come and pick me up and take me with him on tour.
“He’d drop me off outside the preschool in the afternoon and mum would pick me up, thinking I’d been at school all day.
“Most people learnt about the bus industry when they left school and rst started a job, I learnt throughout my childhood. I’m only young, but I’ve been doing this all my life.”
Pearson, who is also a quali ed diesel mechanic, left his father’s business to start his of cial bus career at Brisbane Bus Lines.
He then went on to work for Red and White Coaches and then Cross County Tours – prior to landing his current job at Glasshouse Country Coaches, in the middle of 2015.
He also worked as a driver at Martyrs Bus Service on Melbourne’s outer- eastern fringe for a while, a job he says he thoroughly enjoyed despite the distance from his family in Queensland.
“It was a shame to have to leave, but I needed to move back to be closer to my family for personal reasons at that time,” he says.
Being a regional operator, the old fashioned value of helping out your mates hasn’t been lost.
“We work closely with a few operators, not only here on the Sunshine Coast, but in Brisbane and the Gold Coast as well,” he says.
“That’s the bus industry – we are all in the same boat, really. It doesn’t matter who it is, if they’re having problems we will always do our best to help, because we’ve all been there.
“If you don’t help people, people won’t help you. I believe every good business is built on relationships, not just with customers but other bus operators as well – what goes around comes around.”
The organisation has started doing a lot more event transport work this year.
“We sponsor the local Rotary Club every year and provide them with buses to do a road safety program for students, which they conduct a few times a year at
“We’re supporting our community and we like to be involved”
Corbould Park Racecourse in Caloundra,” Pearson says.
“It’s basically all about driver awareness for P-platers, with all schools on the Sunshine Coast participating. It costs us money, but at the end of the day we’re supporting our community and we like to be involved.
“It’s a really good program and they’ve shown that the road toll on the Sunshine Coast has dropped since its introduction.”
A GROWING FLEET
Glasshouse Country Coaches was the rst Australian bus operator to receive a newly re- engineered Custom Coaches CB80 Series II lo- oor route bus in March this year.
The new bus handles the hills and tight corners that characterise the Sunshine Coast Hinterland very well, and it has proven to be popular with the drivers and patrons alike.
The new addition brings the total eet to 28, including three minibuses and three midis.
“We have one with the McConnell bench seats that can legally carry 79 primary school students, and aside from the midis and minis, the rest carry between 53 and 67 passengers,” Pearson says.
The eet is a mix of Iveco, Hino, BCI and MAN buses and coaches, with an average eet age of 12 years. GCC currently has 25 school bus and charter drivers employed, plus two drivers each day to operate the two Q- Connect services to and from Maleny.
“We also employ one full-time mechanic, who I assist when time allows,” Pearson says.
“The supervisor role in a bus company means you get to call the shots, but you are also the back-up when a driver or mechanic is needed”.
GCC has 15 school runs and two route services, and in combination with the charter work, it keeps the team very busy.
“It is sometimes a challenge to balance route services, school runs and charter work, but we always seem to nd a way,” Pearson says.
This business is well positioned to take advantage of the massive housing growth on the Sunshine Coast.
“All the new housing developments that are going up south of Caloundra, and here in the Hinterland from Steve Irwin Way through to Roys Road, excites me as to what the future holds,” Pearson says.
Not only will there be new housing but also new schools and, as the population grows, GCC plans to grow with it.
The desire to branch out into new ventures, coupled with the upswing in charter work, means things are looking good for the future Glasshouse Country Coaches.
Getting the staff to work together and embrace change has yielded good results over the past year, and what was once seen as a small operator in the Sunny Coast Hills, is now well and truly on the map.
Left: The GCC depot is probably one of the most scenic in all of Australia; Top and above: The famous Glasshouse Mountains set the scenery; Glasshouse Country Coaches (GCC) depot supervisor Sam Pearson
Above: There’s still plenty of room for growth at the depot Right: Route 890 is now a permanent service; Below: Charter driver Tony Long likes to keep his nose clean
The depot has a few interesting landscape features
Above: Pearson takes the new CB80 II for a spin; Below: Just a few in the growing Glasshouse fleet