BIC 2023 highlights from Trapeze

Published November 23, 2023 in Blog

Adelaide Oval was the ideal backdrop for a gathering of our sector’s big hitters at the Bus Industry Confederation (BIC) National Conference.

Trapeze Bus fielded an experienced team which included Account Manager Vickie Thorne, ITS Team Leader Jared Coffee, and National Sales Manager David Eason who was selected to present his ideas about future funding on the first day’s afternoon session. He proposed innovative ways our sector could access funding sources that aren’t traditionally considered from a transport perspective – you can read more details later in this blog.

The Trapeze Hydration Station was a busy spot during the drinks breaks, as delegates topped up their free reusable water bottles and continued conversations from the main hall. Our industry experts were on hand to discuss Trapeze’s TIMS, Austrics, and LIO solutions that are tailored for bus.

The transition to new energy sources was a recurring theme during BIC, so the Foton Hydrogen Fuel Cell bus tours to Torrens Transit’s Morphettville depot, hosted by Transit Systems, were particularly popular. Other hot topics included better management of network disruptions, updating workforce skillsets, and using technology to enhance driver safety.

Safety and EV Transition session

The first presenter during the Safety and EV Transition session was Samantha Moran from the NSW Office of Transport and Safety Investigations (OTSI). Ms Moran shared OTSI’s findings from investigating thermal events in conventional fleets, including the need to train drivers about in-vehicle warning systems and the challenges primary contractors face when new systems are installed after the original chassis construction.

This theme was developed by Chad Rouse from KlineFire, who focused upon EV fleets and the lessons learned from thermal runaway incidents overseas. He emphasised the importance of protecting battery packs from a thermal event caused elsewhere in the vehicle, given the lack of a known agent that fully extinguishes lithium battery cell fires.

New approaches to this problem include locating detection and suppression systems inside battery packs, as the detection of precursor gases could trigger early warnings about impending thermal runaway events. This would allow charging functions to be turned off and load removed from battery packs while passengers are evacuated safely.

Sean O’Sullivan from TAFE Qld spoke about the need to prevent a future skills gap by delivering clean energy workforce solutions. Priorities included the competence and compliance of training materials and maintaining two-way communications with industry to understand changing skills requirements.

To transition the apprentice market, TAFE Qld has developed new skillset training standards in electric battery servicing as well as subsequent light vehicle and electric vehicle qualifications. BEV driver ops training will be released shortly which emphasise the safe operation of vehicles including those powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

Thought leadership from David Eason

Trapeze National Sales Manager, David Eason, was among the speakers during the Finance and Future Funding session.

He opened by recalling the UITP Global Public Transport Summit in Barcelona, where leaders from the World Bank, RATP Dev, and Transdev called upon authorities and operators to develop new business models in the face of global inflationary pressures.

In response, David proposed three innovative ways Australia’s bus industry could access existing funding resources that haven’t previously been considered from a transport perspective. These were: three-way tech trials to de-risk funding applications; green funds; and funding avenues opened by the delivery of equitable public transport.

“Three-way partnerships allow government to commit to funding new technology by lowering the risk on this investment, de-risking the process and creating a safer bet,” he said. “All parties enjoy increased agency to access non-traditional funding models, thanks to the greater surety created by the increase in proven data points and reliable metrics.”

On green funds, David pointed out that Federal funding mechanisms in Australia connect green funding to future infrastructure projects, rather than funding current operations. So green transport infrastructure dollars support the transition from diesel to ZEB fleets, which fails to reduce the number of cars on the road or increase the overall number of people using buses.

Highlighting the vast difference between annual bus and car emissions – around 2 Mt CO2 versus 40 Mt CO2 – he said: “If we can remove a proportion of these cars from the road, our industry should be credited with delivering these decarbonisation benefits to society as a whole, which justifies access to funding allocations beyond public transport-specific sources.

“I know we’re not in the business of making solar panels or removing methane from cows, but what we are doing is getting people out of their cars which is vital. If we can get one per cent of cars off the road, that’s equivalent to reducing the carbon footprint of our entire industry by twenty per cent.”

David shared the example of Trapeze’s Intros technology which enhances the delivery of equitable public transport. He highlighted the network-wide accessibility benefits DDA funding could deliver, because transport that is more equitable for passengers with a disability also enhances the experience for every rider through better information sharing via signage and audio announcements.

“There is money out there,” he concluded, “and it is up to us to think about future funding innovation so we can continue to grow equitable and sustainable public transport.”

NSW Bus Industry Taskforce update

The Chair of the NSW Bus Industry Taskforce, John Lee, spoke after David Eason during the Finance and Future Funding session. Mr Lee discussed the findings of the First Report which was released by the task force earlier this year.

Buses delivered nearly half of all public transport passenger trips in NSW in 2021-22, accounting for patronage levels of over 157 million. They also played a significant role during disruptions to the broader transport network, including replacing trains when necessary and supporting major events and emergency situations.

One key finding was that most service cancellations resulted from driver shortages, which are widespread nationwide. Recommendations included auditing driver facilities to support improvements; creating a Bus Facilities Fund from contract abatement payments made by operators; costing the provision of free travel for drivers; and a review of training requirements.

Technology was recognised as an important means of enhancing bus service delivery. The report recommended a technology and data roadmap to support the implementation of improvements to the bus technology ecosystem, so it can keep pace with business change and passenger demands.

Sharing ideas and celebrating success

Thank you to all the colleagues who have connected with David Eason about his presentation, whether in the Adelaide Oval bar or since the conference ended. These ongoing conversations demonstrate the true value of BIC as a forum where our industry can share new ideas, celebrate success, and develop strategies for the road ahead.

Did you find the solution your organisation is looking for at BIC? Our experienced team can work alongside you to identify effective technology that delivers your key outcomes, so contact us today or tap one of the links in this blog to find out more.

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