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Challenger spreads quality with Torres Strait Islands delivery

Challenger Bus and Coach’s latest delivery saw it recently spread the trademark Challenger quality to a tour operator in the Torres Strait Islands

Since its evolution as an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) for the bus and coach market in 2017, Challenger Bus & Coach has continued growing as a brand.

Now a familiar name in the Australian bus and coach industry, Challenger’s latest model releases and consistent presence has allowed it to deliver its V12 and V10 vehicles to operators all over Australia.

Ranging from Victoria’s Whitmore Bus Group in Castlemaine to Western Australia’s Pinnacle Coachlines and Queensland’s FNQ Bus Lines, Challenger buses and coaches are quickly being seen across a range of operations in the nation.

Challenger’s latest delivery has seen its vehicles land off the northern coast of Far North Queensland in the Torres Strait Islands.

Its delivery to Torres Strait Island tour operator Rebel Tours is already drawing the attention of locals in the region.

“Everyone’s been quite amazed about having a brand-new bus because we haven’t had one recently,” Rebel Tours manager Sonya Einerson told ABC.

“Being where we are, buses can go to waste because it might start having problems within a couple of years due to the harsh conditions of our environment, so we’re excited to welcome Challenger’s quality buses to the Torres Strait Islands.”

With its previous coach being out of action for five months due to an air-conditioning issue, Rebel Tours was forced to begin the search for a new bus. That search saw the operator turn to a familiar face in Challenger senior sales manager Barry Henderson to explore the possibility of welcoming a new addition to its tourism fleet.

The delivery may have started with Rebel Tours’ trust in Henderson and his rich experience in the local bus and coach market, but the quality of Challenger’s new coach, from its stainless-steel chassis to other key features, soon impressed Einerson and the team.

Image: Challenger

“The interior fit out is good, while Challenger has also installed a Thermo King air-conditioning system to keep our passengers cool,” Einerson says.

“The coach also has a Cummins engine, which we use on our boats, so we know how reliable those engines are and the good quality of them.”

With the seal of approval quickly given by Rebel Tours and an order placed for the Challenger model, Henderson started moving the vehicle from Brisbane in mid-March. The bus was then put into quarantine three days later, before eventually being moved onto a barge in the latter stages of the month.

From there, the coach required a final stage to get across to the Torres Strait Islands. Rebel Tours turned to northern Australian shipping operator Sea Swift to deliver the Challenger bus by barge. While it wasn’t an easy process to get the Challenger vehicle onto Torres Strait Island roads, Einerson says it was an easy decision to go above and beyond to transport the coach by barge due to Rebel Tours’ strong relationship with Sea Swift.

“The bus came directly from Cairns and onto Horn Island, where they used a crane to lift it off,” Einerson says.

“The route that Sea Swift used was one that they have much experience on, so we didn’t have to worry about it too much.”

Although Einerson has plenty of trust and confidence in Sea Swift and its ability to transport heavy vehicles via barge, she was still relieved to see the Challenger vehicle arrive. Present throughout the delivery, Henderson was another excited member to see Horn Island residents’ faces light up when they saw the shiny new coach on Torres Strait Island shores.

Following the arrival of the Challenger coach, Henderson got to work on the aftersales side of the delivery, conducting an induction session with members of Rebel Tours to show them how the Challenger model works. The session included a detailed focus on how drivers use the onboard airlift system.

Image: Challenger

“With the airlift system, operators and workshop staff can now lift a tyre and put a trolley jack underneath it, or even stand beneath it, while they’re changing the tyre without having to use other equipment,” Einerson says.

“This has always been a challenge for us because our remote location means we have no workshops suitable for these vehicles, so it’s a relief to now have access to this capability.”

As a Challenger trademark, the OEM has also supplied Rebel Tours with other parts for the bus, including spare hydraulic hoses, fan belts and a rattle gun. Einerson says Henderson’s forethought will enable Rebel Tours to change tyres immediately without having to wait for a new tyre to be transported to the Torres Strait Islands. Previously, Einerson and her team have had to wait for days to have tyre parts delivered. Now, Challenger will keep them stocked ahead of time to avoid any downtime.

Einerson says she’s grateful for the in-depth support that Henderson and the Challenger team have provided Rebel Tours with throughout the order and delivery process. She’s now hopeful that this maiden delivery to the Torres Strait Islands for Challenger is a sign of a fruitful partnership between the operator and OEM.

“Challenger also uses Cummins engines in its buses and coaches, so we’re hopeful that they can help us service our boats in the future,” Einerson says.

“We also operate a couple of small buses, so if we need to change those over, we will definitely look towards Challenger. We hope this is only the start of a productive partnership.”

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