Higer: strong enough to take on the outback

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

When you're transporting school children long distances each day, you need to be sure the bus they travel on is safe, reliable and comfortable, so Bruce Duncan chose a Higer H7170 Munro for his school bus run.

Bruce has run Duncan's Bus and Coach for 14 years, with depots in Walgett and Grawin, both in far north-west New South Wales. The school bus runs are the bread and butter of his business.

Bruce says ensuring the children get to schools in Walgett and Lightning Ridge every day is a journey that can involve very early starts for some.

"A school bus run in the outback is a bit different to a school bus run in the suburbs so I needed a vehicle that would meet those specific requirements. Some of these kids travel up to 200km per day," he says.

Before purchasing the Higer H7170 Munro, Bruce already owned a 45-seat Higer H10280 Roadboss and was very happy with its reliability and performance, but he wanted a 28-seat 'mini bus' that would allow the 22 children on the Walgett school circuit to have a safe, comfortable ride.

"I saw the Higer H7170 Munro at some bus shows and it was clear that it was the best set-up and the right size for doing the school run, as well as excursions and small charters.

"It is roomier than many of the others, and so well finished. There's a lot of attention to detail, and so many features that come standard with the Higer that you would pay extra for with other bus manufacturers, such as the personalised reading lights, night lights and air conditioning air flow controls. It's the complete package.

"Some of the kids have a very long trip which means they have an early start, a full day of school, and then travel again. It certainly proves how comfortable the bus is, when they can fall asleep on the way to and from school."

Bruce had his Higer H7170 Munro fitted with a windscreen protector and a bullbar; necessary fixtures given the driving conditions in regional Australia are vastly different. In fact, an attribute of the Higer H7170 Munro perfectly suited to the outback is the ground clearance. Being in an environment where the road is a bit rougher this aspect of the Higer H7170 Munro stood out as essential for Bruce.

"When the road trains throw up a lot of stones and there is livestock or wildlife on the road we needed the extra features to adapt the bus to the conditions.

"The Higer H7170 Munro also came with seatbelts, which is so important for the children's safety on the long drives we do every day," he says.

The other attractive feature for Bruce was the resilience of the Higer.

"Because we're in the bush we need a reliable bus. The road conditions are quite different out here. It's not like we can make a call and have another bus come to pick up the kids; we're it. So we need not only a well-built bus but a simple, efficient maintenance schedule. The fact that Higer fits its buses with Cummins engines and Allison transmissions gives me confidence.

"They are very reliable and we don't really have any problems with them, but the fact that access to parts is just so simple through Cummins' national service network, it makes it easy to have our maintenance done locally with minimal down time. So all in all, it was an easy choice."

Bruce has 11 drivers on staff and says they all find the Higer H7170 Munro easy to drive and very economical.

"It meets Euro 5 standards for emissions and high fuel efficiency so even with the slightly higher cost of using AdBlue with the diesel we get very good fuel economy which makes it more economical all round."

Comfort was another of the key reasons that Bruce chose the Higer H7170 Munro.

"It rides really well, and the seats are excellent. In fact, sometimes I think we might even make the children too comfortable!" he says.

"The bus comes fitted with an audio system and TV monitor so we will often play a CD or a DVD on the afternoon trip, to help the kids relax after a long day. It's definitely driver's choice, though, on that - you have to have music or a program that is suitable for children, this helps to keep the kids calm and relaxed!"

Aside from the school bus runs, Duncan's Bus and Coach also does charter work and is moving into tour work. Bruce's 45-seat Higer H10280 Roadboss is well suited for this new direction, and he is about to buy a 57-seat Higer H12320c Roadboss as well.

"We'll certainly be looking at Higer any time we're in the market for a new bus. They tick all the boxes for our needs."

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