It was a bumper turnout at this year’s 64th BusVic Main­te­nance Con­fer­ence, held at the Pull­man Al­bert Park Ho­tel, in Mel­bourne, 2-3 July, where a raft of in­ter­est­ing and of­ten con­tentious top­ics af­fect­ing the state’s mas­sive bus in­dus­try were dis­cussed, d


A range of key is­sues were dis­cussed at this year’s BusVic show at the Pull­man Al­bert Park Ho­tel in July. It was also a net­work­ing fest for all those in at­ten­dance. We headed to it to see what all the fuss was about. Fabian Cot­ter re­ports.

It’s been a big year for the Vic­to­rian bussies. A mas­sive year, in fact. Buoyed by their ‘win’ in the tough Metro con­tracts bat­tle, this year’s Con­fer­ence was a good time to catch up and chat with a stack of cool peo­ple for an off-the-record nat­ter about how things panned out – and what top­ics at this year’s event would be of in­ter­est.

The im­pli­ca­tions and ap­pli­ca­tions of ride-shar­ing, on- de­mand buses, and last-mile de­liv­ery seemed to be key points of in­ter­est, un­der­writ­ten by that all- en­com­pass­ing tran­si­tion to elec­tro­mo­bil­ity – how, why, when, where and even more of the how again.

With a dis­play area of around 52 exhibitors, the Pull­man Grand Ball­room mor­phed into a half­show­room, half-con­fer­ence venue for the event.

Kick­ing things off after del­e­gate reg­is­tra­tion, this year’s of­fi­cial open­ing was con­ducted by The Hon. Matthew Guy MP, Leader of the Op­po­si­tion.

Soon fol­low­ing was the first key­note speaker, David Bartlett, for­mer Premier of Tas­ma­nia be­tween 2008 and 2011. Prior

to pol­i­tics, Bartlett had a highly suc­cess­ful ca­reer in the IT sec­tor as CIO and in­for­ma­tion spe­cial­ist. He spoke about how tra­di­tional busi­ness mod­els are in­creas­ingly re­dun­dant and how ‘the dig­i­tal dis­rup­tion’ we are seek­ing will af­fect busi­ness and fu­tures.

Bartlett dis­cussed the growth of tech­nol­ogy within the trans­port sec­tor in depth, stat­ing the fact most peo­ple have ac­cess to a smart de­vice to­day is driv­ing rideshar­ing apps like Uber for on­de­mand trans­port.

In fact, on- de­mand trans­port was a com­mon and strong theme through­out the con­fer­ence, la­belled De­mand Re­spon­sive Trans­port (DRT) in most cir­cles. And while ser­vices like Uber and Lyft seem to be well placed to dom­i­nate here, there are bus com­pa­nies en­ter­tain­ing their own ver­sions to tap into that mar­ket (that we know of, any­way). All very in­ter­est­ing stuff, re­gard­less.

From there, as per usual, the con­fer­ence top­ics were split into two cat­e­gories and pun­ters were wel­come to pick and choose

which ones they wanted to lis­ten to dur­ing the days.


Stream num­ber one was fo­cussed on tech­ni­cal and main­te­nance is­sues. Th­ese in­cluded a risk mit­i­ga­tion ses­sion that looked at fire sup­pres­sion and its min­imi­sa­tion strate­gies; plus col­li­sion avoid­ance and how tech­nol­ogy is help­ing us out.

Fur­ther top­ics in the day were road­wor­thi­ness of the Vic­to­rian fleet, iden­ti­fy­ing fail­ure pat­terns, risks and ex­am­in­ing cur­rent

bus in­spec­tion prac­tices, plus a retrofitting and com­mu­ni­ca­tion ses­sion on pit­falls when up­dat­ing things like CCTV, in­ter­locks, driv­ers’ seats and duress alarms while avoid­ing down­time.

Stream num­ber two was known as the man­age­ment stream, start­ing with a very in­sight­ful ve­hi­cle in­for­ma­tion ses­sion about con­vert­ing Vic­to­ria’s diesel route bus fleet to elec­tric – how to and by when or if at all – ably con­ducted by Monash Univer­sity’s Dr Rob­bie Nap­per.

Poignant points he raised in­cluded:

• That 38 per cent of Aus­tralia’s en­ergy con­sump­tion comes from oil, with 27 per cent of that en­ergy used in trans­port;

• That there are no signs of those numbers de­creas­ing in the near­est fu­ture – “Be­cause of the na­ture of our coun­try”;

• That the “Ma­jor­ity of Euro­pean cities will have no dieselpow­ered buses by 2025 and no more hy­brid ve­hi­cles by 2030. There, the de­mand for quick tran­si­tion comes from top down. In Aus­tralia there is no push for a change, un­til the cleaner cities be­come an is­sue.”;

• That there needs to be a change in the way Aus­tralians think about the tran­si­tion – “If we just fo­cus on hav­ing an elec­tric bus, we are miss­ing the point. Peo­ple ask me about the elec­tric bus op­er­a­tions, but what they re­ally think of is elec­tric buses and this is not the whole story. We have to think of the way en­ergy is in­te­grated into the trans­port plan­ning. Routes may have to change, we need charg­ers out­side of each de­pot or even at some bus stops, driv­ers will have to be trained and buses will have to be re­designed to ben­e­fit from aero­dy­nam­ics – noth­ing can hap­pen overnight but it can be done pretty eas­ily.”;

• The changes that the tran­si­tion brings can also cre­ate new busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties, in ef­fi­cient bus op­er­a­tion and smart charg­ing;

…all talk turned to next year’s event - aka ‘The Big One’.”

• And that, “The full tran­si­tion will be done by 2070“, as Nap­per fore­sees.

Later was a cool tech ses­sion on De­mand Re­sponse Tech­nol­ogy (DRT) pros and cons; Elec­tronic Man­i­fest Sys­tems (EMS) im­prove­ment and how buses can and should em­brace it more. And fol­low­ing that was a chat on mar­ket­ing and ad­min­is­tra­tion, deal­ing with fluc­tu­a­tions in bus pa­tron­age – why it hap­pens and what can be done – plus all the lat­est on the school bus ad­min­is­tra­tion trial.


Wel­come drinks gave tired del­e­gates a chance to net­work and un­wind after a long day of ab­sorb­ing all that in­for­ma­tion be­fore a main din­ner event that fea­tured co­me­dian ‘ Sammy J’ (if you’ve never heard the F word used be­fore, you would have now), and most im­por­tantly for many: dessert!

Yet the high­light of the din­ner func­tion is the awards presentation, for ac­co­lades like Ap­pren­tice of the Year; Best Bus driver of the Year and the an­nual In­dus­try Achiever Award.

On that note, a big congratulations to the three ap­pren­tice win­ners Dean Wad­dell, Lach­lan Fitzger­ald, and Aaron Ross. And a much de­served win also to Best Bus Driver of the Year Bruce Young (Mt Zero Hold­ings), Roscar for In­dus­try Achiever and BusVic president Dom Sita for In­dus­try Con­tri­bu­tion Award. No doubt his vo­cal sup­port dur­ing the afore­men­tioned Metro con­tracts strug­gle was warmly wel­comed by the BusVic mem­ber­ship.

By the end of the sec­ond day’s dis­cus­sions and work­shops, all talk turned to next year’s event. The 2019 BusVic Main­te­nance Con­fer­ence and Bus Expo - aka ‘ The Big One’ – will be held Oc­to­ber 1-2 at the Mel­bourne Con­ven­tion and Ex­hi­bi­tion Cen­tre, with ex­cited or­gan­is­ers ad­vis­ing all to “save the date”. ABC magazine will see you there!

Left: Chow time.

Top:Dom Sita re­ceives his award.

Above:Check­ing out the ex­hi­bi­tions and schmooz­ing.

Top: A workshop in ac­tion.

Right:Sammy J - do­ing his thing. Op­po­site:Drinkies!

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