Scania goes Gold Class
Scania running gear powers Rick Palmer’s up-market outback coach service.
Contracts to transport mine workers have kept Rick Palmer’s Scania-powered coaches busy during COVID’s disruption, off-setting some of the decline in tourism and charter work that has blighted the entire industry.
Based in Miles, five hours west of Brisbane, and with offices also at Burleigh on the Gold Coast, the premium-class transport business operated by Rick and wife Kim has 14 modern and efficient Scania coaches in service. The fleet comprises four fitted with Coach Concept bodies and three with IRIZAR i6, three IRIZAR Century 3900, three Coach Design and one Mills Tui.
Adding to Rick Palmer’s happiness with the efficient way the Scania’s perform is the opening of a Scania independent authorised dealer, Equipment & Transport Specialists, nearby in Chinchilla.
“I love my Scanias and one of the biggest advantages of Scania ownership is the Maintenance Contract,” Rick says. “Having a local Scania dealer saves me from sending a bus to Brisbane for service, saving potentially two days if for some reason a service is due, but I don’t have a run to there,” Rick says. “The local dealer is a big bonus.”
Aside from COVID decimating the tourism business across Australia, Rick says that after 10 years in business his biggest problem is finding staff, particularly drivers.
“It would be my number one concern, and it is putting a brake on expanding my business. It is hard to get drivers on the Gold Coast, but it is even harder out west. But with the Scanias, I know I have a hook to keep the drivers happy. I received a text message at 3.00am a while ago, and that is not a time you want to get an SMS. But it was just the driver telling me the Scania coach was the best one he’d ever driven. I was happy to hear that, but it was news that could have waited till daylight,” he says.
“While the charter work has been slow, we have had contracts to shuttle mine workers from outback Queensland to Brisbane to fly home, and then bring in the new group. This has kept us going. The mines tend to work on a 19-day swing, and we can field up to 11 vehicles to transport the workers to and from the airport. Just before COVID hit I had acquired a bus company near Gosford and we have a business on the Gold Coast and they have been very quiet, but the mining work has carried us through,” he says.
“We usually have a couple of the coaches away on tours, there’s one now about to head up the middle from Adelaide to Alice Springs, and there’s usually one in for service. Our five new coaches are all on Scania’s Repair and Maintenance Contracts, but the older Scanias and other brands we still service ourselves. The Scania R&M takes the risk off our shoulders, it’s a predictable cost and I anticipate getting better resale values when I come to trade them or sell them, because they have been on the Scania maintenance programme,” Rick says.
Rick’s K 450 Coach Concepts flagship features a steerable tag axle for increased manoeuvrability, and a powerful Euro 6 450 hp in-line six cylinder engine mated to Scania’s 12-speed Opticruise transmission.
“The new coaches are very quiet and easy to drive, and they are very good on fuel. So far, they have covered around 200,000 km. This is less than usual given they are around four years old, so we will probably keep them longer to get as much from them as we can. We have pared the fleet back from close to 40 to around 20 and we have added a few trucks as well to broaden our offering.
“Our New Vehicle Account Manager at Scania, Brian Thompson, knows how fussy I am about my vehicles, and we have developed a very good relationship over the years. When I was deciding about the two Coach Concept bodies, he told me it would be a good decision, and it has been. Aside from the positive driver acceptance, the bodies are very tight, with no rattles or squeaks, which also keeps the passengers happy. I like very short front overhangs as the bodies can be damaged quite easily when manoeuvring, and the driveways of the motels on the Gold Coast are notoriously tight to get in and out of. The IRIZAR i6 has a short front overhang, so that is a benefit,” Rick says.
“Knowing how particular Rick and Kim are, and the pride they take in their fleet, it was great to be able to work with them on updating their fleet based on their requirements,” says Brian Thompson, Scania Bus and Coach Account Manager for Queensland and northern NSW.