Opinion, QBIC

Queensland bus industry celebrates outgoing executive David Tape

When David Tape first joined QBIC in 2006, he had no idea about the bus industry. As he prepares to depart the Council this year, he reflects on a whirlwind journey as QBIC’s Executive Director

During his 16-year tenure as Executive Director of the Queensland Bus Industry Council (QBIC), David Tape, or ‘Tapey’, as he’s affectionately known by the industry, has become a popular figure.

Yet when he first entered the Association in November 2006, he came in wide-eyed and unsure of what he was getting himself into.

“Before I came onboard at QBIC my wife was actually the Operations Manager there,” Tape told ABC.

“At the time I was semi-retired and had no idea about the bus and coach industry.”

Fast-forward nearly 17 years and ‘Tapey’ is leaving the Queensland bus industry with a fine legacy as a successful Executive Director of QBIC. To consolidate his status, Tape was surprised at his final QBIC Conference in April, where he was awarded honorary life membership to the Association.

 

This wonderful story of Tape’s bus and coach career started back in 2006 when he and his wife first moved up to Queensland.

“It was a funny set up,” Tape says. “When we moved up here, I was in the audio-visual industry and my wife was Operations Manager at QBIC.

“She was quickly headhunted by an agency in the aged care sector that was her primary background, so she moved on from QBIC and left it vacant. I was then offered her job.”

Tape wasn’t quick to jump at the offer. His lack of experience or knowledge about the bus and coach industry meant he initially felt that he wasn’t the right person for the job. Fortunately, QBIC persisted.

With no background in transport and logistics, Tape eventually relented to QBIC and agreed to take up the role as Operations Manager at the end of 2006. As he walked into the office on his first day in a suit, he soon found out what the bus industry was like.

He was greeted by industry titans asking him why he was wearing a suit. It didn’t take long for ‘Tapey’ to change his ways to the relaxed dress code and humble nature that characterises the local bus and coach collective.

“When I first entered the industry under the QBIC banner, I quickly found out I had a steep learning curve ahead of me,” Tape says.

“I realised that this industry was different – in a lot of occasions the suit isn’t appropriate attire, particularly when visiting members out at their depots and jumping under buses.

“The industry is humbler and more hardworking than any other I know, so I found out it was a more relaxed industry and environment. As the Executive Director, you must always remember that come the end of the day, you are an employee, so never put yourself above any members.”

Although he wasn’t initially keen on joining the bus industry, Tape fit right in like a hand in glove. The renowned inclusiveness of the industry lured ‘Tapey’ further in, as he soon felt part of the Queensland sector. From there, he excelled as Operations Manager of QBIC.

“When I met with members in regions, whether it be up in Mareeba or a suburban depot, I felt part of the industry and it only increased from there,” he says.

In the opening months, Tape worked hard to learn about the legislation that regulated and impacted the industry while also getting out and about to meet and connect with ministers and members of the Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR). The first part of his job was all about meeting people and setting up networks filled with productive relationships.


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He clearly made a splash, as months later he was elevated to Executive Director of QBIC, solidifying his standing in the Association.

“From there it just progressed,” he says.

“Before you know it, 16 years have gone by, yet my primary aim throughout it all has been to ensure our members have a voice so that they can work under fair contract regimes to deliver the best services for the travelling public.

“While they do this, I have always wanted to fight to ensure that operators and other members are fairly renumerated for what they do for the state and the industry.”

In his fight to do so, Tape quickly realised he had to go above and beyond to listen to all of his members and act on their behalf.

While still in his infancy at QBIC, Tape remembers taking a call from Roma, a rural town five hours west of Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast, about an issue the QBIC member had. Phone calls weren’t as productive as Tape would’ve liked to resolve the problem, so he jumped in his car and drove out to Roma.

After leaving Brisbane at 11AM and arriving at Roma just after 4PM, Tape met the operator in person, much to their surprise.

“They thought I was nuts for driving all that way,” Tape says.

“But we sat down and discussed the problem. It made it so much easier once I saw their environment to understand the issue, so after 10 minutes of meeting we had it sorted.

“I still had to drive back to Brisbane, but luckily they booked a motel for me so I could stay overnight and drive back the next day.

“I hope it showed my commitment regarding what I wanted to do with member issues – I’m not the kind to sit behind desks all day, if I have to go drive to the issue then that’s what I do.”

As the years passed by, Tape celebrated plenty of small wins for the Queensland local bus industry. One of his favourite moments in his 16 years at QBIC is fighting hard on behalf of his membership to secure reform in the school environment.

He says when he first came onboard at QBIC, school bus operators did it tough under standard contracts and the Bus Cost Index. When the contracts and payment model were finally changed to better suit operating environments, ‘Tapey’ was relieved to have made working easier for a large portion of his membership.

“Having that changed would be one of the biggest highlights in my career with QBIC as we made significant financial changes for our members,” he says.

“Before that, I remember sitting down with a previous QBIC President in Cairns and writing out a list of issues in the school environment from members in regional forums and we made a pact to tick them all off.

“When the new model came through last year, the ex-President called me and told me that we’ve ticked off the final box, which was so satisfying.”

The appreciation he has received from a humble membership group has been one of the biggest perks of the job. But it hasn’t always been positive for Tape – he admits that some challenges have been difficult to tackle.

One such challenge he faced was continuing to establish collaborative working relationships with both federal and state ministers from varying governments. Although the majority of ministers he’s served under have been good to work with, he says that he has still had his challenges being a conduit between the state’s industry and its transport ministers.

“Without putting others down, our current Queensland Transport Minister, Mark Bailey, has been incredibly respectful to our industry,” Tape says.

“As an Executive Director, changing ministers or departments is something I’ve had to be quick on. You need to pick up on the background of the person and adjust how you approach them to get the best outcome for the industry.

“Whether it be biting your tongue or pulling your head in, it’s all about putting personalities aside and being professional to benefit your members.”

As he prepares to leave QBIC in July, Tape wants the industry to continue being generous. During various negotiations over the years between industry and TMR, Tape remembers larger operators refusing changes due to the impact it would have on smaller operators.

He says it’s moments like these that make him incredibly proud of the industry. He urges operators to continue thinking of the entire industry when making decisions in the future.

Throughout his 16 years at QBIC, Tape has forged a legacy that will enable him to leave feeling fulfilled. He says assisting with industrial relations reforms. labour agreements and continuing to punch above its weight as an Association will be memories he’ll never forget.

 

Like many great bus industry members, he may not be gone from the sector for long. ‘Tapey’ plans to go on a road trip and holiday with his wife after retiring from QBIC. Once he’s back, he’s not ruling out a potential return to the bus and coach sector to continue his good work.

“I would say that the bus industry probably hasn’t seen the last of me in some way, shape or form,” he says.

“In the meantime, I advise all QBIC members to continue raising issues with the Association. Don’t ever think no one will listen – if you’re a member then you have a say and a voice, so please use it and make the industry a better place.”

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