Unfortunately, working in the trucking industry, we are destined to always be living in ‘interesting times’. There has never been a time in living memory when people involved in road transport haven’t been lurching from one potential crisis to the next. It’s in the industry’s DNA, the tendency to wait until a problem gets big enough to take drastic action to solve the issue. It’s a bit like the way many of the more traditional truckies run their business.
However, we now live in a much more complex world than we did in the past. The sheer volume of legislation which is in place, about to be introduced or about to be repealed is staggering. Add to this a sluggish growth from the economy, promising more than it has delivered, and you get a situation where it is important to be well prepared. The situation we are dealing with, right now, is very fluid, it could go in any direction.
At the top of the agenda has to be the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator. With the resignation of Richard Hancock, the process has lost a driving force. Yes, he may have over-promised, but he did keep things moving along at a pace. We cannot allow the process to lose momentum, it is important to keep pushing for full implementation.
With Hancock gone, relations between the NHVR and the states may have improved, but it is still important for the NHVR and its allies to show the state regulators who is going to be the boss, at the end of the day.
A change in the Chair of the Australian Trucking Association doesn’t normally presage a major shift in the policies of the organisation. Noelene Watson will be able to grow into the role and has the capacity to be the kind of spokesperson the industry needs. One her biggest jobs, this year, is probably going to be keeping pressure on Warren Truss to ensure the NHVR does come good.
In accepting the Chair, Noelene talked about the importance of the treatment of drivers, not only their health and well-being, but as professionals handling the freight task. A real emphasis on this aspect, in terms of PR for the trucking industry may be able to counter the constant negative reports being generated elsewhere.
The Cootes operation have survived a pretty rough six months but the NSW Government have pulled back from taking them off the road altogether. They will now function in NSW with a smaller but better maintained fleet into the future, we hope.
However, the furore around the Cootes fleet has set off a wider re-assessment of the way maintenance is managed both by the regulators and operators. The perception is, the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme needs reform, replacement or realignment. All of those involved in lobbying for the trucking industry are going to have to get involved to work vigorously to ensure whatever regime we end up with is workable and improves safety incomes.
If the road transport industry takes the lead on this one and shows genuine maturity and responsibility in helping formulate the future of these schemes, it could go a long way in improving the way the general public perceive us. It is vitally important, and it always has been, to improve the image of trucking and truckies.
There will be many speaking for the industry who will come out with fine words about how to go forward from here. Now, it is time to show just how serious the trucking industry is about cleaning up its act and actually making those improvements.