Member Alert – March 2021

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Bus SA Director’s report

A short note to update you on things government.

This year kicked off relatively quickly with several meetings with Ministers in early March. These served as introductory meetings for Stephen Lucas as new President and have given us an opportunity to put forward our key policies.

As a Board we met in early February to look at Bus SA’s key policy settings ahead of the 2022 election. We will update you on key points in the coming months.  If you would like to discuss these policies, feel free to contact me.

In February, Government also announced a review into existing regional bus services, via SAPTA. Bus SA will be contributing to this review based on our ongoing position: we seek a sustainable model that supports regional citizens to travel in a cost effective, safe and reliable way. As ever we remain hopeful that this review will generate new opportunities to support regional communities.

Please do contact me if you have questions or anything to discuss.

Lauran Huefner

News from the Bus Industry Corporation (BIC)

BIC review questionnaire

Your input and feedback would be greatly appreciated as part of an independent review being conducted into the BIC industry representation framework.

The questionnaire starts on page 14 of the document linked below. You don’t need to answer every question, and your answers will remain confidential. Survey closes on March 26.

Message from BIC Chair – Wayne Patch

Following the recent sad passing of long serving BIC Executive Director Michael Apps, it is appropriate to give you a brief update on a few important matters currently on the BIC agenda.

As approved at the November 2020 BIC Council meeting, an independent review of the industry representation framework has now commenced with IHG Consultants. This industry representation review is an important initiative and will be of valuable assistance to ensure continuity of past successes and that industry is well represented in the future. The BIC will keep you informed of the outcomes of the review.

A formal external recruitment process for the role of BIC Executive Director will commence in due course. The BIC work program continues in earnest, some of which is outlined in the following bulletin news items.

I am personally keeping a close oversight of BIC activities with the assistance of the Executive Management Committee and support from State Executive Directors where appropriate. Whilst we work through these important processes over the coming months the BIC will continue to grow its already strong reputation.

BIC submission supports Euro VI (conditional) early implementation dates and equivalent alternative standards

On 26 February 2021, the BIC provided a submission to the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications on its draft Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) on its Heavy Vehicle Emission Standards for Cleaner Air [Euro VI].

The Department in its draft RIS sought feedback from the heavy vehicle industries on whether and when Australia should adopt more stringent noxious emissions standards.

This is not only to achieve a reduction in transport-related air pollution but to make sure that the Australian vehicle market keeps pace with technological developments in the global market and Australian transport operators have access to technology available in other markets.

Key implementation take-outs from the submission are:

  • Implementation date for buses and coaches could be as early as 1 July 2023 for new manufactured buses and 1 July 2024 for existing models, but this would need to include an agreed implementation phase. The main issue being that the implementation phase would need to recognise exiting new bus stocks and the delays associated with fitting passenger seats to completed bus bodies.
    The BIC outlined in its submission that buses and coaches be allowed to be built and pre-plated “without seats”. Once the seats are fitted, the bus could then be fully and correctly planned in accordance with the final seating arrangements. Our submission outlined a number of ‘rules’ in which this could be achieved.
  • It is essential that the Euro VI ADR recognises the equivalent US or Japanese standards as alternatives. Similar to ADR 80/03, ADR 80/04 must also allow for equivalent US or Japanese standards as alternatives to Euro VI.
    A review of BIC supplier members of Japanese and US chassis and drivelines found that the acceptable alternative standards could be: Japanese: pPNLT OBD II (2017) and USA: US-EPA 13 to 17.
  • The net affect from overall costs when comparing Euro V with Euro VI is cost neutral when considering Euro VI:
    • uses less diesel
    • uses more urea
    • maintenance and replacement costs of DPFs (diesel particulate filters).
  • The supply of Urea or AdBlue is currently not regulated in any form by any government department. This lack of regulation is affecting the quality and consistency of urea supplied to market. Examples of suppliers selling AdBlue that is either watered down or made up of other additives, has been frequently raised by the BIC.
    The need to regulate the sale of urea is a known issue and although such regulation is needed, it is more likely that the per litre cost of regulated AdBlue will be higher than current market levels.

Download the full submission (pdf file).

Road Vehicle Standards Act 2018 (RVSA) commences 1 July 2021

The RVSA will replace the existing Motor Vehicle Standards Act 1989 (MVSA) commencing 1 July. 

The implementation of RVSA is complex and will see increased accountability on designers/manufacturers, suppliers/importers to comply to standards/regulations.

The BIC position is to make this a level playing field, so all suppliers comply with the correct standards (example: local seat manufacturers undergo all required/expensive testing, contrary to certain imports which can state compliance without providing proof).

This will change over time with RVSA legislation but the BIC’s role will be to ensure standards and regulations are representative and correct.

On 23 February 2021, the BIC had a one-to-one teleconference with the RVSA Implementation branch head – Anita Langford. The meeting was called for by the Department to advise the BIC of the newly appointed RVSA Implementation Branch charged with the regulatory framework, policy and stakeholder engagement (partnerships).

The BIC advised the Department of the key technical and customer service issues currently being experienced with RVSA implementation and will work closely with the Department to resolve the top 5 priority technical issues that the BIC has requested be addressed prior to rollout of the system on July 1.

While the BIC continues to work in the background on resolving issues raised by our members, we strongly urge all bus manufacturers/suppliers and components suppliers to fully inform yourselves of the compliance requirements under the new RVSA. Go to the RVSA website here.

Please also note the following contact information provided by the Department:

Disability Standards for Accessible Transport – Department releases the first of 4 public consultation regulation impact statements

The National Accessible Transport Taskforce (NATT) was established in August 2019 and is led by the Department of Transport and Main Roads (Qld) and the Federal Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications (Department).

The NATT is charged with the reform of the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002 (Transport Standards). In July 2020, the Steering Committee of the Department provided the directive for the NATT and its focus groups to progress to D1s (proposals) for 16 initial reforms.

The BIC currently participates on 7 of the 11 focus groups. The BIC has forged a strong relationship with the Department and the NATT and, in their words, is a critical and key participant in the ongoing review of the DSAPT. The Department anticipates the final RIS to be released in October of this year.

On 15 February 2021, the Department released Edition 1 (of 4 editions) of Regulation Impact Statements (RIS) outlining the proposed DSAPT changes to 16 (out of an expected 21) reform areas.

The BIC is currently reviewing the RIS as a first-phase analysis to form an industry response to the Department as required. We will keep you informed of our progress.

Government set to increase the road user charge

Currently fuel excise is 43.2 cents per litre of which buses and coaches and Industry can claim approximately 16.5 cents per litre as a rebate. The RUC is currently frozen at 25. 8 cents per litre.

The ITMM (Infrastructure and Transport Ministers Meeting’s) last convened on 21 December 2020, proposed an increase to heavy vehicle charges by 2.5 per cent which would raise the RUC to 26.4 cents per litre. The BIC does not intend to contest the proposed increase in charges.

Industrial Relations – latest news from APTIA

APTIA’s Industrial Working Group (IWG)

The IWG met on 2 February 2021 and resolved to make a submission to the Senate Education and Employment Committee in support of the Fair Work Amendment (Supporting Australia’s Jobs and Economic Recovery) Bill 2021.

The IWG position supported the bill but sought amendments which would limit casual conversion only in circumstances where 52 weeks could be offered.

In further support of the submission APTIA attended Parliament last week and met with cross bench senators in support of APTIA’s submissions and also attended the Senate Committee hearing during a presentation by the National Secretary of the Transport Workers Union.

APTIA’S position is that the Bill:

  • Provides a definition of casual employment, based upon a firm advance commitment
  • Provides a mechanism for casual conversion where casual employment is regular and consistent
  • Allows a set off of the casual loading, provided it is properly identified, if a casual is found not to be a casual
  • Provides a less costly mechanism for claiming unpaid wages, without the need to make application to a Federal Court, and
  • Ensures a clearer procedure to seek approval of Agreements with respect to casual employees.

Following are excerpts from a press release issued in support of the APTIA submission:

The Bus Industry Confederation, through its industrial arm APTIA, has lodged a submission to the Senate Committee for Education and Employment in support of the Government’s Fair Work Amendment (Supporting Economic Recovery) Bill 2020, known as ‘the Omnibus Bill’.

APTIA’s submission focuses on:

  • supporting the need for a suitable definition of casual employment
  • the ability for a casual, in certain circumstances, to convert to more permanent work, and
  • the need to prevent double dipping, where to do so would discriminate against permanent and part time bus drivers.

School bus drivers carry school children to and from school, across the nation, but only for 40 weeks a year. The workforce is an aging one with the average age over 56 years. In many cases it is a second or third career move for the drivers, or just some extra work while they also get the benefit of a pension.

APTIA argues that these casual school bus drivers have no problem with this pattern of work, but do not fit the mould of permanent employees. Neither do they want to be permanent drivers.

Statements by BIC’s National IR Manager, Ian MacDonald:

Permanent and part time employees would be discriminated against if double dipping were allowed. Casual drivers would be receiving 25% more than a permanent or part time bus driver, and receiving the same leave entitlements, while doing the same job of driving school buses.

School bus drivers just want to work when it suits them and take breaks also when it suits them. Casual employment allows this to happen.

Vaccination rollout – what it means for drivers and staff

On 15 February 2021, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry released a Covid-19 Vaccine Considerations Guide to its members. The guide outlines:

  • national vaccine rollout strategy and prioritisation
  • vaccine communications and rollout logistics
  • workplace vaccinations
  • international and domestic reopening with a vaccine
  • vaccine certification
  • international engagement on vaccines
  • vaccination FAQs

As the BIC is a member of ACCI, the guide can be made available to the industry at large. Download it here (pdf file).

APTIA’s Industrial Working Group recently completed an APTIA survey on vaccination rollouts and the use of first aid kits. A summary of those responses as follows.

  1. Bus drivers, other than hotel quarantine drivers, are probably not frontline workers, despite their age, and will fall into Groups 1(b) or 2 (a).
  2. Whilst laws in each State differ slightly, on any workplace risk assessment some form of basic first aid kit or first aid service should be made available to a driver, especially on long distance, isolated and school services.

QBIC Conference – Moving Forward Together

QBIC will host its annual conference, “Moving Forward Together”, at the Sea World Resort Gold Coast over the 9th and 10th of April 2021.

The conference theme highlights their new branding, but also their commitment as an Association to move forward together with their Members, State Government and TransLink, as they work to deliver a sustainable recovery path to rebuild businesses and the economy.

The program will be relevant to many businesses and the BIC encourages operators and suppliers to support QBIC in their endeavours to bring industry together in what will be the first major face-to-face industry event post-Covid crisis. The conference plenary program includes:

  • how flexible fatigue management can benefit your future business
  • how we can deal with increasing daily pressures whilst maintaining a resilient and productive workplace
  • what new technologies are available and how they are trending in Australia, future changes to the Award system
  • the modernisation of the School payment model.

Go to the QBIC website to register.

Kids and Bus Safety: new on Bus SA website

The Bus SA website now features a new area with information for parents, carers, teachers – and of course students – about safe behaviour around buses and out on the streets. Visit

Our Bus Safety brochures for little and primary age kids are designed for parents, carers and educators to print out and read through with them.

There is also a Bus Safety for students brochure can be printed and handed out to/discussed with students in classrooms or at home.

Please download and print these, and help us teach kids to be safe around buses.

Bus Tech hybrid buses

SA’s BusTech gears up for zero emissions growth (media release from BusTech)

The Adelaide group behind the manufacture of the Brabham BT62 supercar is positioning itself to become a major producer of electric buses for the emerging Australian market.

Co-located with sister company Brabham Automotive at Edinburgh in Adelaide’s north, BusTech Group is gearing up to produce at least 60 electric buses for the NSW Government over the next 18 months after its recent inclusion on a list of approved electric bus suppliers.

It also has orders for electric buses in Queensland, which it aims to start delivering in the second half of this year.

BusTech says it is the only Australian bus company locally manufacturing zero-emission buses for the NSW market.

Its 12.5-metre ZDi electric bus has been designed, engineered and will be built in Australia.

The all-electric buses aimed at the NSW market will use a Proterra battery pack and drivetrain following a partnership with the US company.

Owned by SA-based Fusion Capital, which also owns Brabham Automotive, the company rebranded as BusTech Group in December following the purchase of Queensland-based Bustech by its Edinburgh-based Precision Buses in 2019.

BusTech Group executive chairman Christian Reynolds said the two bus manufacturers first collaborated under a licensing agreement back in 2017.

“We could see the opportunity to take more of a leading position within the bus space so we worked through a transaction to acquire Queensland-based business Bustech to look at more of a national manufacturing and supplier footprint,” he said.

“Fusion Capital saw the opportunity from the closure of Holden to bring together Tier 1 supply capability to basically look at how we could create a business from the stalled capacity within the vehicle space and that’s what has allowed us to move quite quickly.

“We went from four vehicles built in 2016 to a run rate now where we are building between 250 and 300 a year.”

The company has almost 300 staff with about 170 at a manufacturing plant on the Gold Coast, 110 in Adelaide and the remainder supporting national fleet operations and business development activities interstate.

It also has a manufacturing partner, Elphinstone, in Tasmania, which builds BusTech’s designed and engineered bus the XDi for the Tasmanian market.

Until now, BusTech Group’s commercial production has focused on hybrid diesel/electric buses, often in partnership with international OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) such as Scania.

It is now switching its attention to all-electric buses and has a hydrogen bus in the project scope and design phase.

BusTech already has a number of all-electric prototypes, one of which runs on the Adelaide Metro North Adelaide connector route.

The NSW government recently committed to transitioning its entire bus fleet to zero emissions within the decade, starting with 120 electric buses in 2021, and ultimately planning to convert all 8,000 buses in its fleet by 2030.

Reynolds said the company was now looking to establish a manufacturing site in NSW following its inclusion on the procurement panel, which was the company’s “most significant milestone to date”.

He said he expected other states to eventually follow NSW’s lead in procurement to the point where zero-emission buses became the baseline.

“We anticipate an acceleration of the market for vehicle replacement and what we’re looking to do is have installed capacity within the market to be able to service that,” Reynolds said.

“With the transition to zero emissions there is an opportunity for the market to scale and if that happens it’s feasible our volume could potentially scale up to around 500 vehicles a year, which is where the additional plants come in.

“I think we’ll end up scaling technical staff here in South Australia and we’ll scale up manufacturing and support staff in the territories where we are selling product to.”

The company took on some former Holden staff around the time of the Elizabeth plant closure in 2017, but Reynolds said the focus now was on attracting skilled ex-pats wanting to return to Australia from the United Kingdom.

He said there was also good collaboration between BusTech and Brabham Automotive staff in Adelaide.

“In the early days we provided a soft landing for a lot of (local) manufacturing staff and engineering staff, which has helped transfer knowledge capability into our organisation,” he said.

“More recently we’ve been hiring Australians from the UK looking to come back home from a COVID exposed position but who wanted to remain in automotive.

“We’ve brought engineers in from Jaguar Land Rover, McLaren and Aston Martin so we’ve been able to look at Australians who went overseas and who have looked to come back home but couldn’t quite find the same positions with their skill sets.

“The more that we’ve scaled, we’ve become a more attractive proposition for those Australians returning home and they bring new perspectives of niche vehicle manufacture and technology and that’s really helping the team as well.”

BusTech doesn’t have the Australian electric bus market to itself.

Melbourne-headquartered Volgren is the industry-leading bus manufacturer in Australia and has zero emission partnerships for an imported chassis model.

Sydney-based Custom-Denning expects to release its production model electric bus in April.

“And we know that Scania and Volvo are planning to bring their rolling electric chassis in over the next 12 to 18 months as well,” Reynolds said.

But the former Tesla executive said the next 12 months would provide BusTech the delivery window for what it had been working on for the past four years.

“It’s something that in the post-Holden era is a good demonstration of what’s possible and in the post-COVID era it should give us much confidence that we don’t need to be net importers of technology, it’s an opportunity for us to take matters into our own hands,” Reynolds said.

“I was part of the Tesla team in the early days that set up the Model S factory on the West Coast of America.

“The easy decision for Tesla would have been to go to the East Coast but the right decision was to stay on the West Coast because it bred the culture of the group.

“We have something similar here now – the easy decision would be to replicate the old business model with the new technology but the right thing to do is embrace what this new technology can bring to us in terms of jobs and transformation to see what’s possible.”