Just when you thought the year was petering out with a whimper, something happened

HEADING: <b><font color=red> LATEST BUS DELIVERIES EXCLUSIVE:</b></font> Shaking the room

By David Goeldner | December 7, 2011

In Will Smith’s younger days, before he became a movie star, he had an undistinguished short lived career as a rapper, belting out lyrics like "Boom boom, shake shake the room."

This month’s bus delivery count is shaking the room, and could pave the way for a rollicking Christmas party or two – get the juke box ready – with BCI and Higer doubling their deliveries in second and third spot on the bus delivery table for November.

BCI did particularly well, placing a bulk order of 13 three-axle Explorer coaches into Murray’s fleet, while Higer went prospecting and landed nine 57-seaters at Bechtel, the American LNG contractor operating around Gladstone in central Queensland.

The difference between these operations couldn’t be more starkly contrasted, with one operating a predominantly express coach service between Sydney and Canberra and the other ferrying its workforce to mine sites and processing plants under harsh conditions.

Bustech also got busy in the route service sector supplying ten new low floors to its sister company Transit Australia Group, the operator of Surfside Buslines on the Gold Coast.

Strip these three orders away, and what’s left is slightly above par compared with recent months, and the best result since June.

On the body side, Volgren and Custom, Australia’s two largest bus body builders, were holding ground, which in the face of international competition is probably enough to wind towards year’s end on an optimistic note.

Continuing to rock the room is Volvo, although it might be more Abba than MC Hammer that delights the crowd, sticking firmly to what they know best, placing mainly Volgren and Custom-mated units (47) into urban fleets in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.

Volvo Bus Australia General Manager Peter Duncan addressed a recent meeting of business leaders in Melbourne, remarking that even with a ‘stumbling economy’ Volvo continued to enjoy its largest intake of orders over the past two years, and – as 2012 drew to a close, the year looked ending well for the Swedish supplier.

With just one month of bus data collection left to close the book on 2012, if November’s result is duplicated in December, then the bus supply sector heads into the festive season having banked 1500 units – to the jot.

Some might say that the 1,366 tally so far for the year is a tad depressing, but given that 1,900 chassis were delivered in 2010 in what was considered a boom year, and there is now a likely finish with about three-quarters of last year’s volume, it doesn’t look too bad.

Also, much of 2010 saw the former NSW Labor Government attempting to save itself from certain electoral defeat earlier this year, leading to largesse aplenty as new buses rolled out across Sydney town pre-March 2011.

Therefore, with the absence of a state election vicariously affecting large urban service operations for most of 2011 – at least since March – and therefore no state-based shoring up of votes for the incumbents in public transport-sensitive electorates, one could argue that stripping away this candy might have left the industry with an equally sized cake to spoil over as what otherwise may have been.

Bus patronage will certainly rise in the year ahead, as long as fares stay on parity with the cost of living, and government-subsidised bus funding will return.

Contracts are being renegotiated in NSW and STA in particular is placing big fleet replacement orders with Scania.

What happens in Queensland could be one to watch with the Bligh Government going to an election early in 2012, although relations with the Liberal National Party controlled Brisbane City Council, the operator of Brisbane’s bus fleet, could turn frosty at election time.

Whether that transpires to more buses running under the Queensland Government’s TransLink Transit Authority around the State’s south-east is uncertain, but probable.

Given there are several significant bus suppliers located in the south of Queensland, the competition could warm up in the Sunshine State.

And, a curious statistic revealed through ABC’s bus data collection, reveals Queensland as the State which has consistently performed as Australia’s second largest bus market behind NSW for most of the second half of 2011.

Whether the year’s result so far, with just one short month to complete the set, is enough to ‘boom boom shake shake the room’, giving it your best Fresh Prince (aka Will Smith) impression at your Christmas or New Year’s Eve party is up to who feels they have performed to expectations.

But let’s party anyway – the year wasn’t so bad after all.

Exclusive bus delivery data for November 2011 is available here.

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