Looking around the trucking landscape, it is often difficult to think anything other than confusion reigns. As we seem to stagger from one minor crisis to the next there is never a clear way forward and there are a thousand different voices calling for the trucking world to head in one thousand different directions.
We do not suffer from misinformation, we are not being fed a line to suit someone else’s agenda. We are not starved of information, as the powers that be tell us each and every move they are going to make in the near future, but reserve the right to change direction in the future. It’s not even a matter of receiving mixed messages, it’s just a confusing array of information, supposition and lack of understanding.
The reason for this confusion is clear. we are part of the most diverse industry sector in the country. Not only are there segments divided by what we carry, but also by business model, business size, region, customer base, payment terms, contract – if any, the list goes on.
Not only do we not have a clear idea of who we are, neither does government. It does not have much of an idea of who it is talking to. The big multi-national players in the industry can afford to pay for the kind of lobbying which ensures decision makers are well aware of their position, needs and wants, and know if they are helping the big boys, or hindering them.
What about the rest of us? The RSRT crisis in early 2016 did show us how to get to the point where one message can get to the right people from the point of view of a large constituency in the trucking industry. At the time there were estimates of 30,000 to 50,000 owner drivers in Australia, we still don’t know.
Then there’s all of the players in between, all those mum and dad businesses who are happy with a few, or a few more, trucks and then those who have grown bigger than that into substantial family businesses. Then again, there are others who have grown to fulfil the needs of a customer or a community. These are all working in slightly different sectors, with their own issues.
If someone working for a trucking company or running one were asked what they needed, they would answer from their specific point of view. Multiply that by 100,000 plus and you would get a spread of opinion, which would veer from one extreme to the other.
Similarly, when it comes to voting, very few of those engaged in the industry would decide which way there vote will be cast on trucking related issues. Why? Because no one has a clear idea on what trucking related issues look like.
In this confusion we have a few voices of rationality, working with some good intentions. Groups like the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator and the National Transport Commission are trying to work towards a workable solution to the myriad problems which face trucking.
That being said, we are still paying a road user charge which pays for more than we are getting. We still have enough variations in regulations across state borders to put a major impost on the productivity of trucking, and ultimately on the productivity of Australia.
How do they get away with it? Because there are no overarching issues on which we can all agree, just lots of small diversions from one single idea of how to change things to make it right. Maybe there is no over-arching issue because it’s going quite well for everyone. Maybe not.
There is a way to get what we want and make it clear to the people at the top what trucking needs. To get it there needs to be real well-informed and very honest discussion to come to some sort of reality check and clarification of the issues. We need to be somewhere where consensus reigns.