Diesel News would like to congratulate Chris Melham on taking over the role of CEO at the Australian Trucking Association. This is not such a big move, physically, for Chris, he has been working in the same building as CEO of NatRoad for a number of years. In this time he has shown his grasp on the issues and an ability to get things done, get issues worked through and bring the trucking industry along with him.
In one sense, however, this is a big move. He is no longer a representative of a particular group of individual members all with their own interests and problems. He is now out there representing the trucking industry as a whole, all of us. This is something very different, the problems are bigger and take place at a higher level, it is a step up.
Now is the time to really build on the achievements of the ATA, so far in its 25 year history, and take the whole thing to the next level. The ATA is now a well-established lobbying organisation based in its own building in Canberra. With the Minter Ellison building close to being paid off, funds for improved research and policy development should start to come on stream.
The essence of how the ATA moves into the future can be boiled down to one thing, communication. It’s about time the trucking industry’s voice was heard at all levels and in all fora. There is no point in being a shrinking violet about this, there are important issues coming up and our voice needs to be clearly heard.
Communication is not just about the public presentation of the industry. However, the industry’s voice has been lost many times in the general cacophony around trucking in recent years. The TWU and the NSW RMS have got plenty of airtime, on TV, radio and in the newspapers in recent years, but a clear message from trucking has been missing.
We have allowed rogue reporters from TV shows, like A Current Affair, to make outrageous claims and set back the agenda, without any protest from a wronged trucking industry. We have an articulate and plain speaking Chair in Noelene Watson who comes over as forthright and reasonable, sadly unused on the issue.
At the same time, the communication needs to be precisely targeted behind closed doors, both in Canberra and the state capitals. The ATA needs to have access throughout the back rooms of Canberra. Perhaps funds freed up by from the HQ building could be used to bring together research to help our politicians introduce legislation which helps trucking, get over the line. At a time of drastic cuts, well funded research will be useful tool in paving the way for reform.
Recent years have seen rifts appear as bureaucrats and state governments hamper attempts to get us a genuinely national regulator. An organisation as big as the ATA can get in there and help get recalcitrant nay sayers to reform. It is in the interest of the NTC, the NHVR and all of the industry associations to use coordinated pressure to make progress.
There is also communication needed between the ATA and its constituency. Its members are a select band of associations and companies, but its constituency is the broader trucking community. Perhaps there should be more talking directly to truckies and those representing them in different fields. Education about the issues, and the role of the ATA would go a long way to getting the agenda clear.
So there it is, only one thing to do, communication!