Attending the ATA/ARTSA TMC in Melbourne this week was an interesting experience with some aspects of the event giving us hope for the future and others, more depressingly, going over issues which come around every time and don’t look like getting any better in the foreseeable future.
If there is one common thread from the conference, it is probably the passion shown by many of the delegates. Some of the stronger personalities are forceful in showing their passion for all things trucking and doing the right thing. These are the ones who always ask the curly questions and try and put speakers on the spot, getting to the heart of the matter.
For many others, they steer away from the spotlight and may come up with comments and suggestions in the smaller and more informal discussion situations in workshops. However, get any of the delegates on their own in a one to one conversation on a particular topic and the passion will come out. For some people maintaining trucks is just a job, but for these people it is something they feel strongly about and want to see improved.
There are frustrations for anyone running or working in a trucking industry workshop. Apart from just getting the job done, keeping the trucks operational and ensuring the fleet is compliant, there are plenty of other issues to keep these people on their toes.
Vehicle specifications, and all of the equipment fitted on the vehicles, are constantly moving on. The emphasis has to be on training, training and training to keep those working on these increasingly sophisticated bits of machinery up to scratch. Updates just keep coming.
Enforcement officers on the roadside ping trucks which the workshop have got up to scratch. As an example, in the conference room it was possible to get as many opinions as there were delegates on what constitutes a leaking shock absorber. The same variety of opinions can be found in roadside checks.
One thing all are agreed on is the need to bring through a younger generation of technicians and mechanics with similar levels of passion for the industry as the older generation approaching retirement. This has been a burning issue for many years and the situation gets more critical year on year.
One chink of light to give delegates some optimism for the future was the young people who did attend and show some of that passion for trucks and trucking workshops. They were evident in all of the sessions and asked the right questions.
Three of the youngsters at the event came courtesy of Cummins, sponsored to come to the event after a process in which they demonstrated their commitment to and passion for the industry. Others came along, either under their own steam or paid for by their employers.
They are out there, people with a passion for working on our trucks, making the highway a safer place and having an interesting and fulfilling career. We just need to encourage more of them to sign up.
Negative coverage of our industry doesn’t help. Parents steering school kids away from technical vocations into other fields is also an issue. Whatever it takes, it needs to be done otherwise the trucking industry is looking down the barrel of a much tougher skills shortage than it currently faces.