Aftermarket Bus and Coach Features & Interviews Truck Van

Is maintenance peace of mind too hard to resist?

20 February 2014 #Aftermarket #Bus and Coach #Features & Interviews #Truck #Van

With new Euro-6 technology on trucks, many operators are turning to vehicle manufacturer maintenance packages until they better get their head around EGRs, SCRs and other acronyms.

 What’s life like in the workshop with vans, coaches and buses?

There are not the same requirements for manufacturers to maintain vehicles in the light commercial market, but many operators are still relying on them.

With its recent purchase of 20 Mercedes-Benz Citan vans, for instance, TSG Building Services agreed a deal with Heathrow dealer Rygor that enables maintenance work to be done by the dealer but without the downtime of travelling there and back.

“It is imperative that we receive a reliable and efficient day-to-day service with breakdown cover, and we have therefore negotiated an on-site service plan with Rygor,” explains TSG Managing Director Ben Thrussell.

“The package includes the facility for round-the-clock maintenance and provision of a replacement vehicle should it be necessary, thus minimising downtime and allowing us to run our business as efficiently as possible.”

It appears that there are a range of compelling arguments for LCV fleets to outsource maintenance, but how are new technologies impacting the way buses are maintained?

Like the new technologies found on Euro-6 trucks, hybrid powertrains are presenting new challenges for bus operators and this has affected their maintenance schedules and procedures.

Arriva Bus UK currently operates the largest number of hybrid buses of any bus fleet in the UK. It has nearly 200 on the road, with 150 in London alone, 34 running in Birkenhead and 10 within the Bolton fleet.

While the vehicles in London are covered by a full manufacturer R&M contract, Lloyd Mason, Engineering Development Manager at Arriva UK Bus, explains that a different approach has been adopted for those vehicles deployed in the North West.

“In a departure from how we have previously looked after our hybrid buses, we’ve not gone for the manufacturer R&M package,” he explains. “Instead, Arriva engineers will be responsible for carrying out the servicing and maintenance on the hybrid vehicles.

“We see the time coming where our own engineers will need to engage with the hybrid system,” reasons Mason, “so having the new vehicles in Birkenhead seemed the best time to bite the bullet and ensure that the engineers are given the appropriate training, in order to optimise the operation of the new buses.”

So far, a training programme for technicians has been limited to just the engineers at Birkenhead since Arriva doesn’t yet have a broad enough network of hybrids to undertake the investment in its technicians, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t coming.

“We are anticipating that if this process works well, and we don’t have any unforeseen problems, it will be a model that we spread throughout the network as hybrids become more popular on the fleet,” predicts Mason.

“Birkenhead is the pilot for our in-house option so we can compare efficiencies, costs and operation with that of London, in order to make an informed decision on the best route for the future.”

Manufacturer packages undoubtedly offer peace-of-mind, particularly with new technology, but it can come at a price.

Technology has always moved on – from steam to diesel and into the electronic era – but independent and in-house technicians have kept up so far and operators and trade bodies are keen to make sure that they remain able to compete.

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