The theme of this week’s NatRoad Conference is ‘Knowledge is Power’, one of those catchall types of phrase which can be interpreted many ways. In this particular case, the implication is clear. If the trucking industry learns one thing from 2016, it should be about keeping everyone in the industry informed.
One of the reasons the whole RSRT managed to slip under the radar and hit many in the industry by surprise at the last minute, in some cases, was because we are not very good at information in trucking. Rumour and misinformation abound in an industry used to working in isolation in thousands of separate silos.
We are not very good at talking to each other and even worse at passing on information when we get it. Such a diverse industry with thousands of operations from the massive nationals to the huge numbers of small mum-and-dad firms seem to be oblivious of each other.
Trucking people are used to working in small groups, where co-operation is mutually beneficial, but have a problem communicating their problems to a wider audience. This behaviour pattern has grown up over many years and will continue, unless we do something about it.
If everyone who was going to be affected by the last order put out by the RSRT had known what was happening in the week or so before Christmas, a lot of grief could have been avoided. Those in the know needed to get the message out to everyone and the possible channels of communication were limited.
Sitting in a meeting called by the Small Business Ombudsman and hearing how many operators only realised what was going on when they picked up something on Facebook in the lead up to the introduction of the order on April 4, was a bit of a wake up call.
We did demonstrate our power as a group, in the end. By the time the abolition became a definitive possibility the industry had mobilised, and anyone not aware of what was going on must have been living under a rock.
Happening in the early stages of an election campaign certainly helped. The politicians were particularly keen to get their faces out there on the TV saying something to get them back into Parliament. All of a sudden the truckie had lots of friends, who had never acknowledged them before.
As one of those channels of communication, we here at Diesel have to take our share of the blame. Could we have got the story out any better? Probably. Did we learn lessons about what it takes to talk to the trucking industry? We certainly did.
Knowledge is power, and we need to remember that when we communicate with each other. Passing on knowledge also imparts power to the receiver. If we can get talking to each other right, just think what the trucking industry could achieve together.