Charging up skills for Canberra’s electric bus fleet

Man in high-visibility overalls and headwear stands in front of electric bus
Transport Canberra bus mechanic Stewart Sheill

Transitioning to a zero-emissions bus fleet in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) involves much more than just purchasing electric buses. New vehicles provide opportunities for industry, local jobs, and skills both in workforce and the local economy.

The Zero-Emission Transition Plan for Transport Canberra supports a transition to new skills for public transport workers, including diesel mechanics and other operational staff. Through training courses and on-the job learning, Transport Canberra is making sure staff have the skills they need to maintain and operate a zero-emissions bus fleet.

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Stuart ‘Stu’ Shiell has been a mechanic for more than 40 years, spending half of this time as part of Transport Canberra’s servicing team. With 12 new electric buses on the road and another 94 on the way, mechanics like Shiell are also transitioning to ensure each new electric bus on the road continues to run smoothly.

“So far there’s a lot less work involved with them. As they get serviced there is very minor things to be changed,” Shiell said.

“On an internal combustion engine there is a lot more moving parts, which means there is a lot more adjustments to be made. On an electric bus there is far less.

“In a type of trade if you just stay stagnant you won’t go anywhere, so you have to keep ahead of technology if you want to make yourself viable in the industry.”

Transport Canberra is working closely with staff to ensure they have the training they need to safely and efficiently operate new technology vehicles.

Training has been well received by staff. So far:

  • 89 staff have completed Connect and Disconnect Training
  • 29 staff have undertaken Skillset training
  • 468 staff (Trainers, Drivers, Refuelers, Field Officers Communication Centre) have undertaken Bus Familiarisation training
  • Certificate III in Automotive Electric Vehicle Technology for apprentices and trades staff is scheduled to commence in term 4, 2023.

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Work is also underway on building charging infrastructure for the new electric fleet. Six charging units are in use at Tuggeranong bus depot for the 12 battery electric buses already on the road.

Construction of the new Woden bus depot is progressing and once completed it is expected that depot will have the ability to charge up to 100 battery electric buses. Planning has also started for the development of a new zero-emission bus depot in Canberra’s north.

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