Higer buses have generated a lot of interest in Perth, particularly among schools. They are a relatively new brand in Australia, with only one importer who sells to a handful of dealerships. Their sales incentives are very appealing – alongside their highly competitive price-point, Higer have been offering purchasing officers a trip to China to see the manufacturing plant.
These newcomers to the Australian roads have now been around long enough to need some maintenance. We love the opportunity to get our hands dirty with new types of vehicles, so since Higer’s arrival, we’ve gained some experience in repairing these buses. Given the popularity of Higer buses with schools in particular, we thought it was worth sharing some of our more interesting findings:
We’re accustomed to certain norms in modern vehicle manufacture, and Higers held quite a few surprises for us! The buses show signs of traditional, more hands-on production methods which we rarely see these days.
– Instead of being bolted on (like most other vehicles), Higer’s door handles are attached with glue. The cut-out for the door handle also appears to have been done by hand. The holes are rough and irregular, not uniform as they would be if machined.
– The panels are covered in body filler. This is essentially touch-up putty which ‘fills out’ the surface of irregular or damaged panels to make them appear smooth. Again, this technique is rarely seen on vehicles made in the last 40 years, as panels manufactured with current technology don’t usually require it.
– The paintwork itself has quite a dull, old-fashioned finish, in contrast to the super-shiny modern buses. This could be a result of the type of paint, the painting processes used or the body filler underneath – or it could be a combination of all three!
2. Servicing, Parts and Repairs.
Like a lot of vehicles manufactured overseas, Higers can be a little tricky to service and repair due to the difficulty in ordering parts. This is not an insurmountable problem, but it’s something to consider if your fleet operates under a regular repairs and maintenance regime or if you have tight deadlines – school holidays, for example.
– Parts must sometimes be ordered from the east coast and from China for the same repair job, which can cause delays.
– There are also still a few quirks in the chain of command (e.g. wrong parts charged and delivered) which can cause unnecessary delays and expenses. These may simply be teething problems with what is still a relatively new vehicle in Australia.
This is very important to us, especially for vehicles that are used to carry large numbers of children.
– After doing a little research we were surprised by how little vehicle safety testing has been done on Higer buses by independent organisations. We also discovered that the Australian federal body for road transport has very few safety requirements for vehicles like these that can carry 60 people. We didn’t find any definitive indication that the buses are safe, unsafe or otherwise, because there doesn’t seem to have been any real benchmarking done – which is quite a worrisome ‘unknown’ for a school bus.
– We are led to believe that the buses have a great motor in them. They may not be suitable for all kinds of driving, however. We recently spoke to a bus driver from a local college who took a Higer on a trip to New Norcia (about an hour from Perth). He had so much trouble handling the bus at higher speeds that he refused to drive it back, and swapped with another driver who had exactly the same problem. The school now only uses the Higer bus for shorter trips within the metro area.
We can certainly see why Higer buses are an attractive option for schools, many of which have tight budgets and significant transport requirements for large numbers of people. We encourage anyone who is considering their options to do some research before making a decision:
– Always insist on a test drive with your regular bus driver. Ideally you should take the bus out for at least an hour, and see how it drives for extended periods above 100km/hr.
– Think about the typical driving conditions of the vehicle – will it be making primarily short trips in the city or taking longer trips for camps and excursions?
– Repairs and maintenance should be considered from the outset, both in terms of what they’ll cost and how much time your bus will be out of action waiting for parts. We are happy to discuss this with you!
– Consider the re-sale value alongside the purchase price. All vehicles will depreciate over time, but with the ongoing expenses of running a bus, it’s worth getting one that will still be worth something as a second-hand sale.