National Transport Commission (NTC) commissioner Bill Noonan’s interest in transport policy began when he started a career as a truck driver in 1964.
“When I became a truckie I noticed all the differing policies and rules you had to comply with as you crossed state borders. I thought, why isn’t there national uniformity for these things?” Bill said.
He was eventually elected as an official for the Transport Workers Union in 1974 and went on to serve as Victorian branch secretary of the Victorian/Tasmanian branch for over a decade, as well as federal president for a term.
Moving to more recent times, Bill readily concedes the NTC’s focus on national transport reform was the driving force behind his decision to take on the role of commissioner in 2008.
“Some of the highlights of my time at the NTC so far have been the work on the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator and National Rail Safety Regulator, as well as working with the other commissioners and the NTC staff. There is a good work ethic amongst the staff; they are a group of people who are really focused on achieving outcomes.”
Although he has seen a lot of change within the industry since 1964, it seems some things will never change.
“The main difference in being a truck driver in the ‘60s and ‘70s compared to today is the introduction of containerisation. It was a more physical task before then … we were a lot more reliant on loading trucks by hand,” Bill recalled. “However, one thing that has remained the same is problems with traffic congestion and finding spots to park your truck.”
As well as his work in the transport industry, Bill has been instrumental in promoting community health, particularly men’s health. As a director of the Institute for Breathing and Sleep, he had a major role in developing Healthbreak, a confidential workplace health assessment program which has screened 8000 bus and truck drivers.
He believes the critical challenges emerging for the Australian transport industry include funding for infrastructure, finding a way to create more efficient freight movements through the development of a national freight strategy as well as addressing the demand for passenger transport.
“I also think continuing to raise the profile and status of the people in the industry is important,” he added. “For many years of my life I was known as ‘just a truckie’ – but our truckies do very important work.”