Cost of bus bodies examined

Researchers have developed Australia’s first ever model to investigate and test the life cycle costs of Australian bus bodies.

Cost of bus bodies examined
Monash University art design and architecture senior lecturer Dr Robbie Napper with Volgren CEO Peter Dale.

Academics at Monash University developed the model in response to bus body builder Volgren setting Monash the challenge to investigate life cycle cost differences between their buses and others in the Australian market.

Monash University art design and architecture senior lecturer Dr Robbie Napper who led the research says the model will   help to level the playing field for any operator, manufacturer and public transport provider that’s interested to know what their bus costs.

"What started off as a simple question has led to detailed and robust model that has far reaching benefits across the wider bus industry and public transport sector," he says.

"Life cycle cost as a term is frequently thrown around but until now, there’s been little research to actually quantity and test different models. Now we have the means to be better understand whole of life costs and to be more precise on cost generating activities such as fuel, tyres and refits."

Napper and his team collected data from three operators in two states and tracked the life cycle costs of nine buses for a 12 months period.

"Information was obtained from operators by means of data reports and in-person interviews that allowed us to better understand some of the nuances around servicing, accident repair, refit and disposal which are not easily represented in the model," Napper explains.

"The data collected has been compiled into a major comparative research report. The participating operators or comparative bus bodies are not identified to protect the confidentiality of their data input."

The research found that Volgren had the lowest life cycle cost. Volgren buses were found to have a lower life cycle costs of 7.3 per cent than that of comparative bus bodies.

Based on a bus travelling 62,000kms a year, Volgren delivered a lifetime saving of $36,000 in fuel and a further saving of $20,000 in repairs and refit costs.

"Body structure design has the largest impact within the elements studied, with cost savings tied to the materials used in the body, reparability and in some cases the ability to achieve substantial savings in mid-life refit," Napper says. Fuel use reductions, achieved through a lower vehicle mass, also had a substantial influence in reduction of life cycle cost."

Volgren CEO Peter Dale says he hopes Monash’s work on life cycle cost would be used to educate the industry on life cycle costs and encourage operators to seek greater clarity from bus body manufacturers.

"Looking at a bus operator’s bottom line, it’s not about price, it’s about the lowest cost of total ownership," he says.

"Our strategy is about producing safe, high-quality buses with the lowest whole-of-life costs, reducing the need for constant bus repairs and improving regular maintenance."

The team at Monash are now recruiting additional operators to participate in the study and the university will also have its Life Cycle Cost model peer reviewed by other academics.

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