Bus Industry News, Events, International

Future looking bright at Busworld conferences

The future of buses, including electric buses, was a major discussion point at this year’s Busworld conferences

Busworld Europe 2023 was held in Brussels between the October 9 and 12, with five impactful European Union conferences being held.

Bringing together manufacturers, operators and policy makers saw a collective effort to bridge the gap between technological feasibility, economic viability and regulatory demands in the bus industry.

Along with esteemed partners, the conferences addressed pressing issues and shared conclusive statements that hope to shape the future of bus operations.

Starting off with the Zero Emission Bus Conference, which took place across all four days of the Expo, seven pivotal statements were made throughout it to set the tone for the transition to zero-emission vehicles.

Cabinet member of EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simpson Ruud Kempener started off by highlighting that “the ZEB sector is a leader for the rest of the European energy tradition”.

Discussion then continued onto the necessity of an exponential increase in zero-emission bus production to reach the European Commission’s 2030 target of 100 per cent.

Alignment of whole ecosystems towards an integrated energy system, analytics integration in large fleets offer significant operational cost reduction plus financial risk diversion for battery electric buses being crucial were also stated during it.

The statements then ended with the need for scaled and infrastructure support for fuel cell buses along with the showcase of long-distance battery electric and fuel cell coaches at the event.

Day two saw a roundtable panel discussion about driver shortages, along with a driver safety seminar.

The roundtable began with the presentation of the IRU Driver Shortage Report. It showed a concerning trend that the number of unfilled driving positions could triple by 2028.

It also pointed out that women only occupy 16 per cent of driving positions along with only three per cent being covered by young people.

Among the panel, there was a consensus on the need to attract young and female drivers while road transport operators and industry representatives agreed that legislative solutions can address these problems. Derogations in driving and rest time rules to reduce driver stress were also agreed upon.

Afterwards, the safety seminar saw the launch of a new academic report recommending the development of a new European standard for collision safety on buses.

Titled Safety in bus transport in Europe, the report was commissioned by Public Transport Norway and aims to assist purchasers and authorities in establishing safety requirements for bus contracts and regulations.

Key recommendations from the report include making several safety measures mandatory in bus transportation such as fleet management systems for smoother driving, safety culture measures and management systems, plus crash protection for drivers.

These measures are currently not legally required in bus transport despite research showing its effectiveness, with the researchers proposing the development of a dedicated European standard for bus collision safety.

Day three saw the digital mobility conference take place, with a focus on many different topics.

Beginning with the future of mobility as a service (MaaS), it was concluded that data collection and analysis are key for the growth of bus and coach companies, while the integration of urban and interurban services in multimodal mobility systems through digital platforms is crucial to keeping the bus industry position in urban transport strong.

The implementation of telematics was then discussed, with the panel believing that it would be crucial to the digitalisation of transport. However, it would present some challenges such as interoperability, ecosystem development and the prioritisation of modes.

Smart Energy Management Systems were then discussed, with the panel agreeing that effective energy management can save more than 30 per cent of energy costs in electric bus deployment, with inclusive energy management systems also being on operators’ wish-list.

They also agreed that the compatibility of charging software with different infrastructure and vehicles remains a challenge.

Eventually moving on to Advanced Driver Assistance and Autonomous Buses, the conference confirmed that the deployment of level four autonomous buses in public traffic is evolving. The enhanced safety for passengers, drivers and road users was the driving force for this increase.

The final conference on the Future of Coach Tourism provided three conclusive statements, starting off with Low and Zero Emission zones in European cities restricting access to city centers.

Preparation of dedicated driver and rest time regulations for coach drivers was welcomed by all stakeholders, while group tourism, specifically smaller groups, was on the rise and is leading to a diversification in vehicles.

“As the driving force behind these conferences and in collaboration with many partners, we are committed to further guiding the debate and propelling the European bus industry toward a sustainable and innovative future,” Busworld Foundation director Jan Derman says.

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