One of the smallest parts suppliers in the industry may be one of the most significant, writes Ian Porter
It may be one of the smallest suppliers in the bus industry, but hundreds of operators around the country would have dif culty meeting their statutory requirements if Bus Parts Plus was not here to support them.
Every day its staff of two despatch vital supplies to operators as far away as Darwin, and as close as Sydenham, from their parts-cave in Melbourne’s west.
“It’s a business that can pretty much be run over a website,” says John Louder, a branch manager in Victoria for CMV Truck and Bus. CMV houses and manages Bus Parts Plus on behalf of its owner, the Bus Association of Victoria (BusVic).
Bus Parts Plus (BPP) dates back a fair while to when the Victorian bus industry was comprised largely of small eets, before consolidation got going.
As a service to members, BusVic took on certain roles which, while they had a commercial element, were more about making life easier for the membership.
Buying a bus may have been relatively easy, but tting it out so that it met an ever-increasing number of State Governmental regulations – whether it be for school bus, charter bus or coach operations – is another matter.
Where did you get stickers saying ‘exit window here’, or a sign saying ‘ keep clear when bus is in motion’, or handles for the compulsory safety window?
You got them from BPP. But that’s not all. BPP also developed a revenue stream by supplying parts for older buses that were out of production.
“We sell to bus companies all over Australia. Businesses everywhere can go to the website and see a switch for an Austral or a Denning or a PMC or a Volgren, and say ‘ we want that switch and we want that sticker’,” Louder says.
“Our guys are specialists in that eld, where they can source all these little bits and pieces that go along with buses.”
Those guys are manager Shane Sammut and parts interpreter Ben Cocks. What they don’t know about the regulations in each state isn’t worth knowing.
“These two guys are hands on and know busses back to front,” Louder says. And it can get complicated.
“All the states have different regulations, which is a real problem for the industry. But through BPP, they can supply all your regulatory requirements, stickers, whatever, for any state,” he says.
“For example, when you get a brand new bus, or when you buy a bus from interstate, you may have to change the stickers to suit the local regulations.
“BPP specialises in all the regulatory requirements like ashing school bus lights and can give advice on what’s required to suit each state.”
Sammut says the company’s stock lines have risen from around 1000 to more than 1500 in the last few years.
“We’re not just Victoria,” Sammut says. “There’s a not a day when we don’t send something interstate. We’ve sent toilets to Alice Springs because they need the bus the next day and haven’t got a toilet. We cater for all sorts.”
Sammut and Cocks pride themselves on being able to help with any request.
“We always try to help them out or point them in the right direction,” Sammut says. “We try never to leave them with nothing. We always try and help them with something.”
The key is to understand the differing regulations in each state. It could become a mine eld if the differences are not well understood.
“The boys have to be conscious if the operator is ringing from New South Wales (NSW) or Queensland or Victoria as to what stickers are required,” Louder says.
“They have to be knowledgeable about what requirements are where, in which state, because they differ rights across Australia.
“School bus light kits are a good example. If someone rings from New South Wales you have to work it out. For them it’s no different, but for us it is.”
Louder says NSW is the only state that has wig-wag lights on their school buses.
All the rest of the states in Australia say that the only people allowed to have wig wag lights are emergency services.
“In Victoria, our lights ash above your head. In New South Wales they have both them and headlights ashing,” he says. “In Victoria, the only people allowed to have headlights ashing are emergency vehicles.”
Even though it’s only a small operation tucked away in a CMV service area, the BPP chaps don’t have a minute to spare.
“Eight hours a day the phones don’t stop ringing. And there’s a lot of email traf c for all the bits and pieces that make a bus a bus, like the emergency exit hammers, the emergency stickers,” Louder says. “They also have relationships with many of the suppliers such as Hanover, and all these auxiliary suppliers where they can source the parts.
“A bus operator down in the country can ring up BPP and say I need these different features on my bus, can you get them for me, and the boys will source them all, invoice it, send the parts out all on time.”
Consolidation in the bus industry means the operators are larger now and are big enough to do their own deals with the suppliers.
BPP may be tucked away in a CMV service area, but that means it is colocated with one of the biggest bus and coach suppliers in the state – Volvo.
That means there are ve to 10 new Volvo buses to t out each month, plus used vehicles passing through on their way from one state to another needing speci c stickers for the new state.
Although it is owned by BusVic, Sammut and Cocks will soon be upgraded to the new CMV dealership just down the road from the present location in Derrimut.
“When we move to the new building – we are probably about 12 to 18 months from moving into new dealership – then BPP will be relocated into more comfortable surroundings,” Louder says.
Our guys are specialists in that field
Bottom: BPP manager Shane Sammut, and parts interpreter Ben Cocks