Bund­aberg Coaches di­rec­tor Ja­son Beres­ford takes de­light in the de­liv­ery of a new Den­ning high-deck coach. We take it for a spin and come away im­pressed

Bund­aberg Coaches di­rec­tor Ja­son Beres­ford takes de­light in the de­liv­ery of a new Den­ning

ABC (Australia) - - CONTENTS - WORDS & IM­AGES PAUL ALDRIDGE

I re­cently vis­ited Bund­aberg, a large coun­try town in Queens­land not far from the coast with a pop­u­la­tion of about 50,000, to visit lo­cal bus com­pany Bund­aberg Coaches.

It is sur­pris­ingly very green and has beau­ti­ful tree-lined streets and some great his­toric build­ings. I hadn’t vis­ited Bund­aberg for al­most 20 years and was look­ing for­ward to a test drive in a newly ar­rived Den­ning Coach around this pic­turesque place.

Ja­son Beres­ford is the owner and di­rec­tor of Bund­aberg Coaches. When you speak with him, you as­sume from his knowl­edge and the com­pany’s suc­cess that he boasts a long ca­reer in the bus in­dus­try.

Yet, asked about his back­ground, he de­scribes his prior his­tory in the air force and in air­craft main­te­nance, so the pur­chase of the com­pany was a huge ca­reer change and one that the pas­sion for his com­pany shows was a good move. He did ad­mit his fa­ther was – and is – a good busi­ness­man whom he talks to sev­eral times a week, and that he has al­ways ac­corded him strong guid­ance in run­ning the busi­ness.

COM­PLETE PACK­AGE

Beres­ford cred­its re­li­a­bil­ity as a ma­jor fac­tor for go­ing with the Den­ning, along with ease of avail­abil­ity of parts and on­go­ing sup­port and parts sup­ply.

“Pre­dom­i­nantly we have al­ways run Euro­pean ve­hi­cles but have had is­sues – not in get­ting parts, but some­times the de­lays in get­ting the parts and the ad­di­tional costs added for them to ar­rive in the coun­try.

“I spoke with lots of other op­er­a­tors run­ning Den­ning for their opin­ions and I did some parts re­place­ment com­par­isons with them and it ended up be­ing a no brainer.

“Also, be­cause we do a lot of re­mote tours, if you are out in cen­tral Aus­tralia or outback Queens­land and you need parts, some­times it’s not only the avail­abil­ity of the parts [which is an is­sue] but also get­ting peo­ple with the knowl­edge to work on and re­place the parts.

“Cum­mins and Al­lison are brands run by many truck and bus com­pa­nies so it’s easy to  nd peo­ple with a good knowl­edge of them.”

The qual­ity of Den­ning’s build was also an im­por­tant con­sid­er­a­tion for Beres­ford.

“Ev­ery­thing is big­ger and stronger [in a Den­ning]. Next year we are do­ing a tour out to Birdsville with hun­dreds of kilo­me­ters of dirt road. With this coach, I won’t give the trip two thoughts – I have that much condence in it.

“If you ask Den­ning, we ticked all the boxes on the spec sheet and have ended up with an un­be­liev­ably quiet and com­fort­able coach with ex­cel­lent re­sale prospects.”

On any test drive I like to see how Aus­tralian de­sign and man­u­fac­tur­ing gets in­cor­po­rated amongst over­seas tech­nol­ogy, with Beres­ford say­ing “I like to think of it as Aus­tralian over Amer­i­can”.

“The en­gine and trans­mis­sion, the run­ning gear, the brakes and axle are Amer­i­can, but the whole chas­sis is 100 per cent built by Den­ning in Brisbane, and that was a ma­jor fac­tor in our de­ci­sion to pur­chase this coach.

“We do like to sup­port the lo­cal econ­omy as much as we can. The Sty­leride seats are also made in Brisbane.

On the topic of the Den­ning chas­sis, sta­bil­ity is a ma­jor benet as the air bags are mounted

The whole chas­sis is 100 per cent built by Den­ning in Brisbane

re­ally wide and the roll is greatly re­duced. It han­dles a lot  rmer than a many other coaches, but the full benets of the ex­tra sta­bil­ity come in when it’s fully loaded, with Beres­ford say­ing it cor­ners beau­ti­fully be­cause of it.

Also equipped is a 1000-litre fuel tank and a larger AdBlue tank than nor­mal. Be­cause it’s rel­a­tively new it’s still run­ning in, Beres­ford claims, but so far the fuel con­sump­tion has been “very good”.

Driver com­fort also played a big part in the pur­chase.

“This can be seen in the lay­out of the dash,” Beres­ford says. “We moved but­tons to what we felt were more ap­pro­pri­ate places for ease of use, we moved the re­tarder stalk onto the steer­ing col­umn, but I guess for driv­ers the ma­jor draw­card – which we will do in all our new ve­hi­cles – is the bunk that re­ally is more of a driver’s cabin.”

The cab con­tains its own in­de­pen­dent power sup­ply, air­con­di­tion­ing, TV and DVD player,

charg­ing ports, stor­age ar­eas and a large king sin­gle bed, which is per­fect for when a driver is wait­ing at ex­tended stops.

“If a driver takes a group of kids to Movie World, they may have a six-hour break dur­ing which they can jump into the cabin and have a sleep or watch a movie, all in air- con­di­tioned com­fort,” Beres­ford says.

“The driver is then re­freshed ready for the drive home. We look at this as real fa­tigue man­age­ment for our driv­ers.

“We have this fea­ture in two coaches al­ready and will have it in all fu­ture coaches we pur­chase.”

THE TEST DRIVE

This was ac­tu­ally my very rst time driv­ing a Den­ning, so I had no pre-con­ceived ideas about what to ex­pect or any com­par­isons to what I pre­vi­ously ex­pe­ri­enced.

It’s al­ways in­ter­est­ing to hear the logic be­hind a com­pany’s choice as to why they chose a par­tic­u­lar new ad­di­tion to their eet.

Beres­ford has only been in the bus in­dus­try for six years, so ob­vi­ously with no long his­tory of driv­ing dif­fer­ent ve­hi­cles it’s clear he has done his home­work and feels very condent with his choice.

Be­ing a high-deck, the front ex­ter­nally has a huge ex­panse of glass. There are 52 re­clin­ing seats and smart Bund­aberg Coaches brand­ing – you can’t miss it.

Ef­fec­tive brand­ing is al­ways a pos­i­tive for smaller com­pa­nies. When you see a good-look­ing coach on the road it’s good to see who it be­longs to, es­pe­cially when it’s close to home and you might re­mem­ber it bet­ter for fu­ture ref­er­ence.

The LED day­time run­ning lights look great, though my only crit­i­cism is the driv­ing spot­lights cover the Den­ning brand­ing, which is not the best for com­pany ad­ver­tis­ing.

Un­der­neath is a slide- out fridge and hot wa­ter urn. A cold bot­tle of wa­ter was re­ally ap­pre­ci­ated as Bund­aberg is a very warm place to visit.

Off to a great start, re­mote key­less en­try to open the coach means no need to carry heavy keys around. In­ter­nally, the driver’s area is set out great for tour­ing.

There is a lot on the dash but it’s all colour-coded and easy to nav­i­gate. The mir­ror con­trols di­rectly be­side the driver’s arm­rest are easy to use.

Cruise con­trol is also mounted here, which isn’t the stan­dard place as it’s usu­ally on the dash­board. I didn’t have the op­por­tu­nity to use it and see how it feels, how­ever.

Driver vis­i­bil­ity is great with all the glass. Mu­sic playlists are easy to se­lect, and a bonus for the driver is a re­vers­ing cam­era with sen­sors. I have this in my car and it’s easy to get used to.

One fea­ture I would love to ex­pe­ri­ence while tour­ing is the bunk – no more drop­ping off pas­sen­gers and spend­ing un­com­fort­able hours wait­ing. The driver can climb into their own air-con­di­tioned cabin, have a sleep and recharge or watch a movie; all without leav­ing the bus. This was a fea­ture I had never seen be­fore, and one I’m sure the Bund­aberg Coaches driv­ers must re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate.

When you start the Den­ning, you are im­pressed by what you don’t hear. Beres­ford tells me it ticked all the boxes for sound­proo ng and it shows. He guided us out to some scenic coun­try roads and over a river cross­ing on the Bur­nett River, where I got to spend a fair bit of time driv­ing and re­vers­ing un­til we got the video per­fect.

I got to use the cam­era, which was very help­ful, but years of us­ing my mir­rors meant I kept re­vert­ing to do­ing things man­u­ally.

Beres­ford men­tioned the sta­bil­ity

One fea­ture I would love to ex­pe­ri­ence while tour­ing is the bunk

was a ma­jor pos­i­tive for him and I could feel that this coach was great around cor­ners. The air bags are wide-set and this ob­vi­ously keeps things su­per sta­ble, elim­i­nat­ing the rolling feel­ing you some­times get with taller coaches.

The trusty Cum­mins ISM 11-litre with 440hp was what you’d ex­pect when matched to the 6-speed Al­lison trans­mis­sion with six-stage re­tarder – a great and de­pend­able combo. It has dual-cir­cuit EBS (in­cludes ABS) ser­vice brakes but I didn’t get to give them much of a work­out as the re­tarder does the heavy lift­ing in the brak­ing de­part­ment for you.

Driv­ing back to Brisbane in a hire car, I would have en­joyed the trip way more be­hind the wheel of Beres­ford’s Den­ning.

COM­PANY HIS­TORY

The Burgess fam­ily ini­tially es­tab­lished Bund­aberg Coaches in 1972 be­fore it was pur­chased by Mick and Carol Fo­ley about a decade later.

They owned the busi­ness un­til Beres­ford pur­chased it in 2011.

“When I pur­chased the busi­ness, the Fo­leys had scaled it back from sev­eral to two ve­hi­cles to make it more man­age­able to sell,” Beres­ford says. “We cur­rently have six ve­hi­cles in to­tal – four coaches and two smaller ve­hi­cles. We have two Mercedes coaches, the MAN, and the new Den­ning.”

The com­pany em­ploys up to 10 driv­ers and four ofce staff, in­clud­ing a tour host­ess. It now does a lot of school char­ter work but fo­cuses on the long-dis­tance char­ter be­cause its coaches are tour-spec ve­hi­cles which bet­ter suits that line of work.

“With the dis­tance be­tween Bund­aberg and Brisbane, we do a lot of work cov­er­ing this route,” Beres­ford says. “Re­turn day trips are very pop­u­lar with schools vis­it­ing the cap­i­tal to go to Southbank, the Lyric The­atre and the mu­se­ums. For end-of-year school camps we take groups away for sev­eral days, con­cert tours and,

of course, vis­its to Movie World and Dream World are al­ways pop­u­lar.

“Be­ing four and a half hours from Brisbane is the ideal dis­tance to do a round trip in a day. Each ve­hi­cle would prob­a­bly av­er­age 80,000 kilo­me­tres per year.”

Bund­aberg Coaches pre­dom­i­nantly does coach tour­ing but also got into the char­ter mar­ket be­cause the coaches would be sit­ting idle be­tween tours.

“I thought they could be bet­ter utilised so that’s how we broke into the char­ter mar­ket,” Beres­ford says. “When I took over the com­pany the pre­vi­ous own­ers had con­cen­trated solely on tour­ing, but I saw this as a smart di­rec­tion for the com­pany.”

Bund­aberg Coaches is the only coach tour com­pany in Bund­aberg and sub­se­quently of­fers a prod­uct that suits the needs of its lo­cal com­mu­nity.

“We have a high re­tire­ment pop­u­la­tion, in­clud­ing the Bar­gara area, and built the busi­ness to have re­peat cus­tomers that have be­come al­most like fam­ily to us. We love that we have lots of fa­mil­iar faces.

“It would have been a loss for the com­mu­nity if we didn’t take over and grow the com­pany. We give th­ese peo­ple the abil­ity to travel, it’s very im­por­tant.

“There are large re­tire­ment vil­lages in the area and many of the re­tirees don’t have their own trans­port. When they set­tle here, the vil­lages have their own bus ser­vices to take them to and from town, so they no longer need to own a car. We of­fer them the chance to travel and es­cape and see the coun­try­side.

“With the char­ter side of our busi­ness we of­fer a qual­ity ser­vice with a pre­mium eet.

“There are other com­pa­nies which pro­vide char­ters but with more generic

It all comes back to ser­vice and how you deal with your cus­tomers

ve­hi­cles so that is Bund­aberg Coaches’ point of dif­fer­ence.”

The com­pany’s web­site says it is com­mit­ted to qual­ity and cus­tomer fo­cus and has won awards for its ser­vice.

“It all comes back to cus­tomer ser­vice and how you deal with your cus­tomers. In par­tic­u­lar with char­ter, we try to be proac­tive.

“For ex­am­ple, if we have a road­side is­sue or prob­lem, our pri­or­ity is al­ways to take care of our pas­sen­gers and make sure they are happy and catered for – cost doesn’t come into it.”

On the tour­ing side, Beres­ford says there’s lots of em­pha­sis and in­vest­ment into the train­ing of driv­ers to en­sure they’re of a high stan­dard. Fa­mil­iari­sa­tion re­quire­ments ex­ist with each coach be­fore a driver is al­lowed to op­er­ate. They have to go out on trips with other driv­ers and tour lead­ers be­fore be­ing al­lowed to tour, to un­der­stand the cri­te­ria de­manded of them.

In any down­time, driv­ers also clean and pol­ish coach parts.

“Pre­sen­ta­tion is very im­por­tant, we al­ways en­sure the coach is ready for pas­sen­gers to board again; our at­ten­tion to de­tail is re­ally no­ticed by our pas­sen­gers,” Beres­ford says.

“The minute you rest on your lau­rels you go back­wards. We try to be in­no­va­tive in all that we do.

“Twelve months ago we in­tro­duced a loy­alty pro­gram to re­ward our reg­u­lar cus­tomers with a points sys­tem re­deemable on trips. There are no re­stric­tions on it to keep it sim­ple.”

GO­ING THE EX­TRA MILE

Bund­aberg Coaches has a sys­tem in place where it cour­tesy calls pas­sen­gers prior to their jour­ney, en­sur­ing they are aware of the itin­er­ary, and pro­vides any de­tails when re­quired – along with ex­tra cus­tomer ser­vice if called upon.

“We like to be open and com­mu­ni­cate with our pas­sen­gers so they are condent and know ev­ery­thing that is go­ing to be well pre­pared for their trip,” Beres­ford says. “We take our duty of care very se­ri­ously.

“Re­cently on a trip to Can­berra for the Flo­ri­ade, a lady had a fall and was un­able to con­tinue the jour­ney. She re­quired hos­pi­tal­i­sa­tion and couldn’t con­tinue but we did ev­ery­thing to get her home safely.

“Our staff were in con­tact with the hos­pi­tal, we or­gan­ised her trans­port from the hos­pi­tal to the air­port, we li­aised with Qan­tas to make sure she had some­one with her at all times and we had a driver wait­ing at the air­port to take her home.”

GROW­ING THE BUSI­NESS

Look­ing to the fu­ture, Beres­ford says he’s fo­cused on long-dis­tance tour work along with tour pack­ages for the school mar­ket.

“Last time Pink was here we did three sold-out trips to see her, and Mamma Mia is ex­pected to be an­other big suc­cess next year.

“I do re­ally en­joy the driv­ing but it takes me away from mov­ing things for­ward here. I in­tend on con­tin­u­ing to grow and de­velop our busi­ness.”

For some­one rel­a­tively new to the in­dus­try, and with his pos­i­tive at­ti­tude to keep­ing his cus­tomers happy, it’s easy to see why Ja­son Beres­ford and Bund­aberg Coaches are a suc­cess in their re­gion.

Above: There is a lot on the dash but it’s all colour-coded and easy to nav­i­gate Op­po­site: Bund­aberg Coaches’ Den­ning in all its glory

Above L & R: Pas­sen­gers get style and com­fort on long trips; It’s a solid ve­hi­cle with ex­cep­tional build qual­ity

Above L & R: Un­der the hood is a Cum­mins en­gine and Al­lison trans­mis­sion; The chas­sis is 100 per cent Aus­tralian built by Den­ning

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.