Australia’s first ever model to test the life cycle costs of Australian bus bodies has been developed by researchers at Monash University.
Volgren set Monash the challenge to investigate life cycle cost differences between their buses and others in the Australian market.  Monash Art Design and Architecture senior lecturer Robbie Napper, who led the research, said the model would ‘level the playing field’ for any operator, manufacturer and public transport provider interested in their bus expenses.
“What started off as a simple question has led to detailed and robust model that has far reaching benefits across the wider bus industry and public transport sector,” Napper says. “Life cycle cost as a term is frequently thrown around, but until now there’s been little research to actually quantity and test different models. “Now we have the means to be better understand whole of life costs and to be more precise on cost generating activities such as fuel, tyres and refits.”
Below: Monash University senior lecturer Robbie Napper with Volgren CEO Peter Dale
Napper and his team collected data from three operators in two states and tracked the life cycle costs of nine buses for a 12-month period.
The research found that Volgren had the lowest life cycle cost, 7.3 per cent lower than that of comparative bus bodies.
Based on a bus travelling 62,000km a year, Volgren delivered a lifetime saving of $36,000 in fuel and a further saving of $20,000 in repairs and refit costs.
“Body structure design has the largest impact within the elements studied, with cost savings tied to the materials used in the body, reparability and, in some cases, the ability to achieve substantial savings in mid-life refit.  Fuel use reductions, achieved through a lower vehicle mass, also had a substantial influence in reduction of life cycle cost.”
Volgren CEO Peter Dale says he hopes Monash’s work would be used to educate the industry on life cycle costs and encourage operators to seek greater clarity from bus body manufacturers.
“Looking at a bus operator’s bottom line, it’s not about price, it’s about the lowest cost of total ownership,” Dale says.
“Our strategy is about producing safe, high-quality buses with the lowest whole-of-life costs, reducing the need for constant bus repairs and improving regular maintenance.”
Napper and his team are recruiting additional operators to participate in the study and will also start the process of having their life cycle cost model peer reviewed by other leading academics.
Australasian Bus & Coach November 2016