Later this year, Peter Bromley will celebrate his 40th anniversary as a Volgren employee. In that time, he’s seen a lot and witnessed the company change dramatically.
Peter came to Volgren as a first-class body maker – a professional vehicle manufacturer – and worked on VG06, the sixth bus ever made by Volgren. Since then he’s been involved with just about every element of a Volgren bus, spending the majority of his time in accident repairs.
“[Early on] Fred Spillar, who set the work ethic for Volgren, got me involved in fitting air conditioners and smash repairs out of the main shop before we moved to bigger premises. I’m very lucky I’ve been in smashes [most of] my life here. I’ve worked on hundreds of them,” Peter says.
Why lucky? Peter says the repair shop always gets “the big jobs” and there’s “a great variety of work that comes down”, which means that over four decades no two days have ever been the same for him.
He admits, though, that he’s seen his fair share of buses in bad shape after serious collisions.
“Years ago I could spend two months on a job,” Peter remembers. “Now it’s changed a lot.”
He says CO-BOLT, the aluminium assembly system created by Volgren’s Swiss manufacturing partner HESS, has altered the way buses are constructed and repaired. Prior to its inception “everything was welded”.
“Because [of that], the whole bus had to be bogged up. There were a lot of hours spent sanding a bus down. These days there’s not a bit of bog on the bus.”
Despite this, repairing a vehicle is still intricate and involved work and while a job no longer lasts months, Peter says one thing that hasn’t changed over the decades is that generally only one person works on a repair. He or she may get assistance throughout a project, but it’s mostly a solitary job.
It hasn’t been a solitary career, however. Peter talks of Volgren as if it’s a family. Indeed, he has family members who have worked and still work with him. His brother, John, was Peter’s boss until he left the company in 2018, but John’s sons and daughter remain at Volgren.
Peter says when he looks back at his time at Volgren he’ll remember it as a place of fun, but also as a place that gave him great professional fulfilment.
He recalls a European vehicle manufacturer sending incomplete chassis to Australia and one of the company’s representatives showing the Volgren team how to assemble them. Several years later, word came through that a further 30 chassis would be arriving at Volgren’s Dandenong facility and, to his surprise, they would once again need to be assembled by the Australian team.
Peter and his colleagues used the knowledge and skills they’d gained previously to get the chassis ready for the Volgren bodies.
“It was fantastic seeing them drive out. My biggest thrill in this company,” Peter says.
Those buses were exported to Japan, one of the most competitive vehicle markets in the world. And Peter says he takes enormous pleasure in seeing the end result of the work he and his peers do being regarded so highly.
“There’s a lot of pride and satisfaction in what we do. They’re a quality product. Probably the best around the world. It’s pretty good to see how they all come out.”