SUNNY SIDE UP - CABOOLTURE BUS LINES

By: Anjali Behl, Photography by: Whitedress Productions


OPERATOR: Over three decades on, Grant and Janette Craike’s family run business, Caboolture Bus Lines, is continuing to expand its footprint in Queensland. The recent purchase of Bribie Island Coaches is yet another feather in the cap of the business that was first established with just two buses.

SUNNY SIDE UP - CABOOLTURE BUS LINES
“It was very important that we continued to expand our business as opportunities presented,” CBL owner Grant Craike explained of the Bribie Island Coaches purchase.

On an average day in the Sunshine State you will find the two directors of Caboolture Bus Lines (CBL) starting work early at their depot. While Grant Craike begins overseeing general operations, Janette Craike’s work day starts with staff and driver training before the team heads off in different directions.

"Involvement with our staff is pivotal to us. It’s the support network and the family feel we bring to CBL that has enabled us to become the business we are today," Janette pointed out.

"Just being there helps with the continuity of our CBL culture; ensuring our team delivers excellent customer service to the community."

CBL operates two depots – one each in Caboolture and Bribie Island, and a fully equipped workshop in Caboolture. The business provides services from Caboolture to Morayfield, Beachmere, Bribie Island, Toorbul, Elimbah and Beerwah. CBL holds a TransLink contract with the QLD state government for school and urban services, as well as private charter.

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THE RIDE UP HERE

Grant, who was brought up on a farm, entered the bus industry when he and his father bought two school buses in Warwick in the ’80s. Grant sold his bus in 1987 and moved to Caboolture with Janette, where they then bought two school buses. From there, the business progressed to where it stands strongly today.

"It was very important that we continued to expand our business as opportunities presented," Grant explained.

"Since the purchase of CBL in 1988 we have acquired Beachmere Bus Service, Murrumba Bus and Coach, Burpengary Bus Lines, Toorbul Bus Lines, two school services in Caboolture North and, now, Bribie Island Coaches. The development in our region has also been extensive, which has enabled us to experience natural growth in our business."

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FAMILY FOCUS

The company employs 110 staff, out of which 25 are permanent drivers and 65 are casual drivers, and family members remain engaged in key management roles.

"It has always been important to us that our business remained family owned and operated. This family focus enables us to look after our staff and community, both of which form the fundamental basis of our key ideals," Grant added.

The Caboolture workshop is run by a skilled team of seven mechanics. Grant and Janette’s eldest son, Lachlan, is the workshop manager, overseeing the servicing and maintaining of the bus fleet.

"Lachlan has grown up with the business. When he was a toddler we used to bring him into work where he would get to ride on the buses. As he grew up, he started helping out after school and during school holidays. After finishing his apprenticeship, he joined the business full-time," Janette said.

"Meanwhile, our youngest son, Alister, is in his third year of an apprenticeship in automotive heavy commercial vehicle mechanic technology. We are very grateful to have their loyalty, hard work and passion for the family business."

Grant and Janette have a family board set up with their children, including their two daughters, Bethany and Grace.

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THE FLEET

CBL operates 75 buses, with an average fleet life of eight and a half years.

"The entire fleet is made up of Mercedes-Benz buses, except for three buses in the Bribie Island fleet," Grant explained.

"Our association with Benz started in 1994, when we bought our first two Benz buses. Using just one brand of vehicles has enabled us to reduce the amount of parts that we need on hand and has enabled our mechanical staff to specialise in one particular model," he explained.

"The flow-on benefit is the relationship that we have built with Mercedes-Benz, giving us access to diagnostic tool systems, maintenance programs and staff training. Working with Benz has given us the opportunity to become knowledgeable and cost-effective when it comes to maintaining our bus fleet."

Janette added: "We have also been able to fit our buses with USB-charging points – a feature that has been very much appreciated by the community. To further assist our passengers with disabilities, we have ensured our new urban low-floors contain the ironing board feature, allowing wheelchairs to be anchored through the use of a seatbelt around the handle of the wheelchair to make it more stable and comfortable for the passenger."

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COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT

Since joining the business in the ’90s, Janette has focused on the growth and administration of CBL. Janette and Grant are passionate about helping the business deliver a safe, reliable and personal service to the community.

Talking to Janette, it is hard not to be impressed by her passion for community involvement.

"Community focus is very important to us. As we deal with the Covid-19 situation we wanted to reach out to the senior members in our community, by offering a free door-to-door service to help them access essential grocery and medical supplies," she said.

"This service has been a real success, with many seniors taking up the offer, including our eldest passenger, who is 97 years old."

Janette has also developed an award-winning ‘Bus it safe’ program, which has been implemented at local schools via a series of lessons and demonstrations. This free-of-charge program teaches school children about safety around buses and equips them with the skills they need to be an informed public transport user. They also host Community Christmas Light events to raise money for the Salvation Army Christmas appeal.

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COVID-19 IMPACT

Even though Queensland has largely escaped the brunt of the pandemic compared to the southern states, CBL is experiencing a significant blow to its charter operations. Grant feels it will not be until early next year when things start getting back to normal on the charter side.

"To assist with community confidence in using public transport we have implemented the TransLink Covid-safe Public Transport Plan," he explained.

"We are also sanitising the buses every day, supplying hand sanitisers on-board, and ensuring social distancing is maintained between our drivers and passengers," Janette added.

Their plan is to remain innovative and proactive to ensure the continued growth of the business.

"Working closely with TransLink is also a priority to ensure we meet our contractual requirements and state government expectations. Our focus is also to engage with our community by the care and service we provide our passengers," Grant said.

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BRIBIE ISLAND COACHES ACQUISITION

Grant, Janette and the CBL team are enthused by their recent purchase of Bribie Island Coaches – a service that has been an important part of the public transport network on Bribie Island and South East Queensland for many years, they say.

Based on Bribie Island - one of only two islands in Queensland connected to the mainland by a bridge - it provides local and urban services to Caboolture rail together with school services to the island and Caboolture region.

"We are excited to align the Bribie Island team with CBL’s focus on customer service and community involvement and strive for continuing improvement. We are looking forward to investing in the long-term future of public transport within our local region," Grant commented.

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