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Bus Search: Adding the Mercedes-Benz touch for operators

McKenzie’s Tourist Services has become a Victorian public transport institution. The operator credits its fleet of Mercedes-Benz buses as a major factor in its success.

McKenzie’s Tourist Services is confident it has determined the perfect solution for its charter and school bus services.

The company, based in Victoria’s Yarra Valley, has taken delivery of 13 new Mercedes-Benz OC 500 RS buses with Irizar i6 bodies in 2021 and in 2022. It has five more coming in early 2023.

McKenzie’s runs a fleet of 60 buses and coaches that operate all across Victoria and have an average age of just under eight years old. All but seven of the vehicles are Mercedes-Benz products, reflecting the company’s confidence in the brand and the support it provides.

Brad Sanders is the general manager at McKenzie’s and has been with the company for more than 30 years.

With his enviable experience, Sanders has a clear view of the benefits of the Mercedes-Benz bus package.

“We get a lot of feedback from customers who go out of their way to say just how nice our buses are,” Sanders told ABC. “Mercedes-Benz buses are actually a key part of our marketing strategy because people know it is a quality product.

“The Mercedes-Benz engine and transmission are smooth and quiet, the ride and handling is excellent, it has all the advanced safety technology and the Irizar bodies also deliver a premium experience.”

Sanders says safety is paramount at McKenzie’s. The operator is conscious that everything it does is to ensure the safety of passengers, as well as drivers and other road users. Sanders says Mercedes-Benz’s full suite of products feature advanced safety features, making the buses an attractive option.

Mercedes-Benz buses use the latest radar and camera technology as part of its Advanced Emergency Braking System (AEBS), which can complete emergency braking in the event of an incident without the input of the driver. It can even automatically sense and brake for moving pedestrians in urban environments with high levels of foot traffic.

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Other safety features include Lane Departure Warning Systems (LDWS), Electronic Stability Programs (ESP) and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), the latter of which uses a radar system to maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front in an effort to curb driver fatigue.

McKenzie’s is also impressed with the engine and transmission package in the Mercedes-Benz buses and is pleased with low operating costs, including excellent fuel economy.

The new batch of buses features the Mercedes-Benz OM 457 LA (Euro 5) six-cylinder engine that is rated at 360hp and 1600Nm of torque. It is paired with a six-speed ZF EcoLife torque convertor automatic transmission with an integrated hydraulic retarder.

“It is quite hilly where we are based in Healesville, so we certainly appreciate the performance of the engine,” Sanders says. “We couldn’t be happier with the transmission – it is so smooth that it is really hard to notice the shifts.

“The ZF transmission’s five-stage retarder is so good that you often don’t need to use the service brakes. I came down from Lake Mountain in Victoria and was able to control the descent smoothly and safely entirely with the retarder.”

Sanders says the Mercedes-Benz buses in the McKenzie’s fleet have provided good reliable service for many years. He says McKenzie’s has hardly had an issue with its fleet of Mercedes-Benz buses, as they have proven to be durable and reliable over time. McKenzie’s says there is a deliberate strategy to have one of the youngest fleet age averages in Australia as a way of ensuring customers have access to the latest technology and high comfort levels. Mercedes-Benz’s buses are helping McKenzie’s fulfil this goal.

“We offer our customers a premium service and a modern fleet,” Sanders says. “This reduces the chance of breakdowns as well as delivering all the benefits that come from the latest and greatest technology and quality.”

If something does go wrong, the brand ensures its support network for buses remains strong and reliable. Sanders says the team at McKenzie’s feel well supported by Mercedes-Benz.

“Any niggles can be quickly sorted out because we get such good support from Mercedes-Benz and also Irizar,” Sanders says. “The Mercedes-Benz support team will come on site and spend time with us and are quick to respond to any requests for assistance, while the Irizar support is just terrific too.”

McKenzie’s operates regular school runs and a large level of charter services including weddings. Sanders says business is currently booming. With a history stretching back to 1927, the operator has continued to succeed in the Victorian public transport sector. With the latest technology from Mercedes-Benz and Daimler Truck, McKenzie’s success isn’t set to quieten anytime soon.

“It has been flat-stick for some time,” Sanders says. “We are very busy looking after our regular customers.” 

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