Drivers claim artic brakes at fault: not so, say Volvo

By: Chris Smith

The brakes on Volvo articulated buses operating in Sydney are allegedly not working according to media reports in the Sydney

The brakes on Volvo articulated buses operating in Sydney are allegedly not working according to media reports in the Sydney Morning Herald today.

Reports claim drivers say the brakes have been failing randomly for short bursts in a string of incidents that have injured passengers and placed the public at risk.

General Manager of Volvo Bus Australia David Mead says the buses in question have been in service for almost two and a half years and only recently have these reports surfaced.

"In reference to the article published in today's Sydney Morning Herald, Volvo Bus believes that it is important to emphasise the points made by both Volvo and the State Transit Authority in relation to this matter and can happily say that passenger safety has never been compromised and that the buses have been safe and operable at all times since being delivered over two years ago," he says.

Mead says Volvo Bus were aware of the reports made by drivers relating to the braking systems of the articulated buses but in each case Volvo's technical team have investigated the bus and found no fault.

"In each of the reported cases there is no evidence linking the driver report and/or incident to the vehicle itself and at no time has a driver been able to replicate the issue for review by our technical staff," he tells ABC.

"In addition, each of the vehicles has been tested by the RTA as per the regular testing schedule and all 80 have passed their brake test each time.

"The Sydney Morning Herald also reported a monitored STA trial over a period of 53 days. In that time no reports have been made regarding that vehicle."

Mead says operators are aware that modern buses have a number of on-board computers that manage the bus's critical systems.

"In the case of our braking system, the bus is able to log a fault code if a brake fault appears and provides audible and visual warnings to alert the driver," he explains.

"In none of the cases reported by the STA has a fault been recorded, nor has there been any report of audible alarms sounding made to Volvo Bus."

Ironically, Volvo and the authority has already begun a trial of new software that makes the vehicles behave like older buses in the STA fleet.

"Instead of utilising our latest brake technology we have now made the buses feel like older vehicles in the STA fleet," he says.

"The system currently fitted is used on almost 10,000 buses on an annual basis sold by Volvo in over 150 countries."

The Rail, Tram and Bus Union took STA to court this week over the matter, claiming the trial, originally scheduled for 90 days, was too long, and that passengers' lives were being put at risk.

STA agreed to a union request to shorten the trial to 45 days.

Drivers are expected to vote on whether they should abandon the buses until the braking system on all 80 vehicles is replaced.

State Transit CEO Peter Rowley says all buses that State Transit operates, including the Volvo ‘bendy’ buses, are safe and in completely operable condition and fully comply with RTA regulations.

"The brakes in each and every one of the Volvo vehicles are working in the way they were designed to work. All continue to bring the vehicles to a stop, as you would expect a braking system to do," Rowley says.

"State Transit is aware that from early 2007 to present, there have been reports by bus drivers of incidents of "brake blending events" on these Volvo ‘bendy’ buses.

"Numerous tests have been undertaken by Volvo representatives and State Transit’s technical staff, with the presence of concerned bus drivers. However, these tests have een unable to replicate the situation described by the drivers.

"In fact, a bus trial has been operating for the last 53 days on a ‘bendy’ bus nominated by the drivers and operated by concerned drivers. The performance of this bus has been monitored and no incidents have yet to be reported.

"Injuries are sustained on buses from time to time for a number of reasons, but I am not aware of any that can be attributed to these braking issues," he says.

Both the Independent Transport Safety and Reliability Regulator and the Office of ransport Safety Investigations have been contacted by State Transit about this matter.

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