Saturday, January 24, 2009

How many fitters does it take to change a light bulb?

Ah, the old question, how many people does it take to change a light bulb? But this was no ordinary light bulb, it was a Light Emitting Diode indicator light assembly as fitted to a Plaxton Panther coach. I did my usual daily vehicle checks to my allocated coach and found both rear indicators faulty, only a few of the LED's were lighting on each side. I reported this defect to Matthew who told me it was Okay and that I was to drive the coach because he considered it to be fit for service.

Two and a half hours of driving later, the right hand indicator stopped working. I telephoned my depot and told them what a mess we were now in. They called out Avenger Vehicle Services of Leicester who attended my coach. Paul did not have a LED light assembly on his van but saw that the left hand light would not last much longer as there was only a few diodes working. We both talked to my depot on the telephone and it was agreed that Paul would buy 2 LED indicator light assemblies and fit them at the end of my journey, as the top right hand indicator light was working Okay.

I met Paul at the end of my shift and he had 2 LED indicator light assemblies, part number 372A - 01 made by BMAC . He was lucky to get these, as they were the last 2 in the store in Loughborough! The problem was now solved and I felt like the lucky owner of a brand new Christmas tree!

I am annoyed at the attitude of Matthew. I reported the fault to him and he ignored it. I could not refuse to drive the coach because at that time some LED's were working and he classed it as a "running defect". If it was down to me I would have replaced both LED indicator light assemblies OR allocated another coach. This defect cost a lot of money to resolve due to the time and mileage that must be paid to Paul. We also, if the nationwide company was aware of what was going on, could have lost the service and they could have hired in another operator. This problem was an avoidable breakdown, these LED's do not go in a flash like conventional bulbs. The diodes generally expire slowly, one at a time, so you have plenty of warning of imminent failure. These LED lights are a good design and service coaches better than conventional bulbs. But they will never last the life of the coach and must be replaced when water has wrecked havoc with the circuit board.

So, it takes 2 fitters to change a light bulb. The first fitter thinks it may last longer and therefore save the pennies. The second fitter comes out on a breakdown call-out, buys the parts if they are in stock, fits the light and prepares his invoice.
Comments:
Companies who operate services under contract to nationwide coach operators, while at the same time having a much larger fleet of their own to operate, do not prioritise defects to their vehicles well at all. People on-the-ground do not want the hassle of an indicator bulb 'on its way out'.

Once you're out of sight, you're out of mind; that is until the defect worsens and you call them to report this.

If your employer ran dedicated services for the nationwide company and no one else, or at least operated the majority of its fleet for the nationwide company, you'd see a very different attitude from your superiors.

I've been told to take coaches in sub-zero temperatures that have no saloon heaters; in the summer with climate control units that don't work; and been driving around for weeks and weeks in coaches with non-operational toilets as no one's ordered the part yet.

Just as we witness in the retail industry, no one takes any pride in their work anymore - this extends to some bus/coach drivers, too, and also their supervisors, whose minimalist attitude towards vehicle defects is not seen by the passengers so is often ignored. But it is real, here and, regrettably, only likely to get worse, such is human nature.
 
Yes, your experience is mirrored across the whole industry. It does not matter which operator you work for, they all have the same problems and attitude.
The same coach also had no saloon heating and Paul did a temporary fix on this by disconnecting the heater shut off valve solenoid. This means that the heaters were full on all the time rather than full off all of the time. What did John Henry telephone yesterday to complain about? Yes, passengers roasting and no way to turn the heating down! I told Brian that I had reported this in writing but I have lost confidence in our garage.
 
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