The next few weeks in the lead up to the Federal Election are probably going to demonstrate to all of us, what an electoral irrelevance we, in the trucking industry, are. The news channels will be raging with claim and counter-claim, untruths and lies.
None of these are likely to be specifically about or be of much concern to the trucking industry. Most of what is going to happen, in government terms, to the the trucking industry is bipartisan. Both sides of politics are going to have to up infrastructure spending to enable the Australian economy to continue to grow.
Any future government will have to decide on a new way to charge the trucking industry for road use. The intricacies of the various alternatives will not play out on the hustings or even in Parliament. These details will be sweated over in committee rooms, between public servants and industry representatives.
The project to get cross-border consistency in truck based rules and road side enforcement is also a given. The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator is making slow but steady progress towards a more rational regime with more overall fairness.
Any form of roadworthy accreditation which comes through the system is also likely to get cross-party support at both federal and state level. Something will come along which will hopefully tick some of the vital boxes in the roadworthy space.
The one difference we can be pretty sure of seeing if a Labor Government comes in, is some form of minimum rates rules being developed. These will also not play out quite as publicly as the RSRT did, there is no appetite on the part of Labor to get the owner drivers of Australia back out onto the streets in protest again. It’s not a good look.
From what Senator Glenn Sterle had to say under some stiff questioning by Tony Jones and others, at the recent Australian Trucking Association Conference in Western Australia, the process will be collaborative.
The Transport Workers Union will be pushing hard for the kind of tough legislation it reckons will improve truck safety, but there will also be representatives of the trucking operators in the room. No-one denies rates are often low, but the jury is out on how much the current rates picture compromises safety.
Any discussion needs to be civilised and unbiased. Any rates control measures need to ensure they do not favour different parts of the industry over the other. It needs to be something which the TWU, the owner driver, the small regional carriers and the big boys in the big city, can all live with and enable economic survival.
In fact, from the trucking industry’s point of view, we just want the whole election process to be over. If one side wins it’s business is usual and if the other side wins it’s business as usual, plus involvement in a process to legislate rate levels.
Once we get out of the election period everything else in trucking will pick up again where it left off, in anticipation of this election campaign. When there is clear air, infrastructure plans will begin again, capital purchase decisions will start up, the economy will start to get into gear again. What do we need when the economy gets back into gear? Why trucking services, of course.