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QBIC annual conference crowns industry leaders and discusses change

The 2024 QBIC annual conference started with a variety of discussions on leading bus sector topics and ended with a wonderful night spent recognising industry leaders

The 24th iteration of the Queensland Bus Industry Council’s (QBIC) annual conference once again drew the nation’s bus and coach industry to the Sunshine State. 

Covening at the RACV Royal Pines Resort on the Gold Coast, a touch of rain couldn’t deter hordes of attendees from attending the conference in early April. The foremost gathering of Queensland’s passenger transport industry drew an impressive turnout for QBIC executive Jason O’Dwyer and his council.

“The event provided an ideal platform for industry stakeholders to convene, exchange insights, foster collaboration and celebrate achievements,” O’Dwyer told ABC. 

This year’s conference theme was ‘Embracing Transformation: Navigating the Era of Change’, with attendees encouraged to welcome the change currently being seen in the industry. Speakers at the conference called on the sector to be ready to adapt to evolving dynamics.

Whether it be the potential shifts in the political landscape around Australia or the upcoming implementation of the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) in Queensland, a range of politicians, operators, suppliers and stakeholders presented on the need to remain flexible. The conversation then drifted to the latest technology, including autonomous vehicles and accelerated zero-emissions bus manufacturing and deployment in the state. 

With a zero-emissions bus manufacturing plan now on the way, preparing for a sustainable fleet future became a popular topic. Outside of this, contractual renegotiations, evolving asset ownership models, heightened safety obligations and substantial industrial relations reforms also stacked the conference program to allow the industry’s operators and suppliers to prepare for a myriad of challenges and opportunities.

The 2024 QBIC conference covered all the big industry issues

After a jam-packed day spent discussing this wide range of topics, the conference culminated in the Bus Stop Sales Gala Dinner event and awards ceremony. The tradition honours excellence and innovation within the Queensland bus industry.

“Once again, the awards showcased a diverse range of categories and deserving winners, highlighting the breadth of talent and dedication present in our sector,” O’Dwyer says.

To start the Bus Stop Sales awards ceremony, the QBIC Manmeet Sharma Perpetual Professional Driver Award went to Transport for Brisbane’s Juliana Campbell. 

Industry titan Frank Oliveri won the Outstanding Contribution Award for 2024, with Kangaroo Bus Lines being rewarded with the Outstanding Employer Award.

Bus and coach powerhouse Scania Australia was recognised as the Supplier of the Year, while Tropic Wings Cairns Tours & Charters’ sustainability focus saw it take home the Environmental & Innovation Award.

The poignant Perpetual Apprentice of the Year award, named after Aaron Pitt and Lleyton Bartlett, was shared between Polleys Coaches’ Max Kelly and Ethan Bran from Emerald Coaches. The final QBIC award as part of the Bus Stop Sales dinner event was the Achiever of the Year award, which went to Kaylee Clark from Clarks Logan City Bus Service.

Translink then presented its three awards as part of its annual Queensland bus driver of the year ceremony.

Following a public vote on three finalists in each of the three categories, more than 13,000 votes determined the winners of each category. Out of more than 1800 nominations, the South-East Queensland bus driver of the year award went to Hornibrook Bus Lines’ Luluu Berns.

“Winning the award means a great deal to me, it makes me happy. I find being a bus driver so rewarding,” Berns said.

“To all of the bus drivers and everybody out there who voted for me, thank you so much, from the bottom of my heart.”

CDC Queensland’s Mark Nel capped off nearly 50 years as a bus driver with the school bus driver of the year sector. 

Queensland transport and main roads minister Bart Mellish

The final award crowned Queensland’s regional bus driver of the year, with John Christensen from Christensen’s Bus and Coach announced as the winner.

“I feel blown away; the award means so much to me. It makes me feel more appreciated in the community,” Christensen, affectionately known as ‘Christo’, said.  

“The award means people will realise that we have great operators and a great service, and we appreciate all their support.”

To cap off the night and the event, QBIC and the wider bus industry recognised operators who have demonstrated commitment and service to the community and sector.

The likes of Transdev Queensland, Crystal Brook Coaches, Wickhams Bus Service and Glenda Eckel Charleville were presented with awards to celebrate milestones ranging from 20 to 40 years of service.

The crowning moment of the Bus Stop Sales dinner and awards ceremony came when a standing ovation met Del Cole. The founder and current owner of Mt Gravatt Bus Service was specially recognised for 50 years of service.

Barry Bonnicha represented QBIC members to bestow the honour upon Cole, who was applauded by nearly 300 attendees as one of the Queensland passenger transport industry’s pioneers.

“Looking ahead, we anticipate the opportunity to reconvene, collaborate and celebrate once more in Cairns in 2025, as we continue to drive progress and innovation within the industry,” O’Dwyer says. 

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