Friday, 17 April 2015

A Day With BorderBus Maintenance Part Two

Yesterday I posted Part One of my day spent observing the day to day activities with the engineering tean at BorderBus. Click here if you missed it. In this second part it's the turn of the E300 to undergo a safety inspection.

Now I wonder just how many of you know what goes into a safety inspection, and how many different boxes there are to tick. Well there's this many......zoom in to see clearly.

The Inspection sheet prior to start
That's all very well having all these things to do but how do you know what the standard is - when has something passed or not. Well everything has its VOSA standard, and is in the manual. In the old days it was a huge book on a desk, but now everything is online and anyone can download the manual. So if you have a few hours spare over the weekend and want to know exactly what a safety inspection entails, and what the criteria are, then you can download the manual yourself from the VOSA website by clicking here.

So the E300 was placed over the pits ready for inspection.

All set and ready to go
 Dave and Colin started with the basics - lights, indicators, horn, emergency door, tyres, wheel nuts, check fuel cap seal, then the back was opened up..

The engine compartment of the E300
The only test here was the emergency stop button - which is no longer a requirement on buses. It worked perfectly. Too perfectly as it wouldn't start again, which meant opening the unit up and freeing the switch up. no fuss, no bother and so it was underneath for the next stage.

Naturally a lot of emphasis goes on the steering and its components. Checks are made for excess play and anything else that could affect it. Brake shoes can be observed and felt for wear, whilst keeping alert to any leaks or frayed cables etc. the next pic is a little blurred but I'm putting it up anyway as you just don't get a view like this everyday.

Front offside wheel
 Here is a slightly clearer view of the whole set up of the area behind that wheel

I'm sure you don't need me to tell you what everything is!
It is fair to say I'm not mechanically minded. I can normally diagnose a fault but don't ask me how to put it right. Both Dave and Colin were brilliant in the way they explained things without being patronising, which when you are an expert at something is all to easy to be. No question was too silly (and there must have been many) and if ever an apprentice is taken on there will be few luckier in the country.

Now here is a surprise for you all - contrary to popular belief buses DO have shock absorbers!!!

There you go! One fairly new shock absorber
After that it was the interior, making sure all seats were secure, that windows opened, all bell pushes worked, interior lights, emergency door opened ok from the inside, fire extinguisher, wheelchair ramp, and that the bus could not be driven off with the ramp down or insecure.

Next was the brakes, and in the absence of a rolling road we had to use a real one. So a trip to a quiet nearby road, with Dave's brake meter. A full force stop which shifted my internal organs, and a handbrake stop. Both were way above the required standard so back to the depot we went, but not before a quich photo was taken on a road you'll never see a bus in service!

The E300 on a quiet road near South Cove
One obvious test I haven't mentioned yet is that of the windscreen washers. Believe it or not they are NOT a legal requirement on buses, although they are coaches. The reason for this - and no I'm not kidding - is VOSA say buses stop so regularly that drivers can get out and wipe their own wndscreens if required, unlike coaches that go longer between stops. Of course while the driver is wiping the screen someone is nicking the takings!

And that was just about it. Colin drove me home and the fact I have written these posts without referring to any notes or manuals proves what an engrossing and educational day it was. There are plans for me to return to observe a service and then hopefully an MOT. Dave is an example to everyone. His mantra is why shouldn't this sort of thing be reported and shown off as they have absolutely nothing to hide, and as everyone has to play by the same rules what is so secretive about it? Dave, I just don't know, but there is a culture of defensiveness when it comes to maintenance among the big boys that hopefully will gradually be eroded away thanks to companies such as BorderBus. I said in my post when I first met everyone in October (see here) that the atmosphere around the company was unique to anything I had ever known. That atmosphere remains and I would happily spend the Summer in a deck chair at BorderBus's depot just soaking up the sun and the calm, relaxed and friendly atmosphere.

Once again my thanks go to Dave and Colin for opening their inner sanctum to me, and I'm looking forward to the next installment already!

1 comment:

  1. I don't think there is a lot of defensiveness in big bus companies about routine maintenance, however it is much harder to allow visitors full access to engineering facilities like this for H&S reasons (there have been a number of incidents over recent years of serious injuries to visitors in engineering facilities where visitor supervision was less continuous or careful). It is easier for a smaller operator like BorderBus to provide the necessary supervision during a normal work cycle to give a trusted visitor like yourself access that could not be replicated at a busier site & there are often less time pressures at smaller companies with a higher spare ratio meaning more time can be spent showing the visitor what is done & explaining it which would naturally take them longer than it would normally do without someone shadowing them. Engineering workshops are hazardous places for those unfamiliar, most drivers & non-engineering staff are not allowed to enter the 'pit' area either for safety reasons so finding someone willing to accommodate a visitor in such a way is very unusual and is a relationship to be treasured as it is unlikely to be replicated at many companies.