Quite often in these columns, Diesel News is trying to speak for the many lost voices in the trucking industry. There is an issue of representation in the industry which needs to be addressed, but is unlikely to be on anyone’s radar and, if it is, it just gets put into the too-hard basket.
Time after time a problem appears that will profoundly affect the trucking industry. The government, police or other agencies look to meet representatives of the mass of the trucking industry and there are plenty who are willing to give them an opinion and a possible solution, but how much of the industry do they represent?
First of all there are the big boys, who are at the kind of corporate size to need advisors, lobbyists and other public representatives to enable them to do business as they would like. This is fair enough, several companies run thousands of trucks across the country, control many assets used in road transport and have a legitimate right to be heard when an issue affects them and their wellbeing.
On the next wrung of the ladder are the medium-sized fleets who number in the hundreds across the country. It could be thousands – it depends on your definition of medium-sized. These are big enough to have a sizeable management structure, but lack the scale to run some form of public relations department. These companies are often active in industry associations around the country, spend time and money giving to the association and in return get some real representation both at local, state and federal levels.
Then there are smaller, small- to medium-sized operators, who do also engage in things like associations and action groups, but, often, are only able to engage with the issues at a limited level – the people in charge are too busy running the business and keeping the wheels turning.
Further down the food chain we come to the small operators, who may run one truck or a small fleet and almost certainly sub-contract a lot of their work from the bigger boys. Again there are some of these people closely involved in the industry politics and associations, but not in big numbers.
The issue can be seen when we start to talk about the numbers. One of the figures bandied about tells us there are over 30,000 trucking businesses around the country. That’s a lot of separate businesses, especially when you realise a small group of big companies probably control over three-quarters of the road transport market.
Tot up all of those involved in the various state-based and industry sector–based associations and you come up with a number that is a tiny proportion of the number of individual trucking operations active in the country. This leaves a massive number of people with no real representation and often starved of real information.
One of the few conduits to get the genuine story out there is something like Facebook. When the proverbial hit the fan during the RSRT controversy, I sat in a room full of concerned, but ill-informed, trucking folk, who wanted to know just what the hell was going on, and what they could do about it. The first many of them had heard of the whole RSRT debate was when it appeared on their Facebook timeline, when their friends discussed it.
There were voices of reason in the room, the small proportion who do engage and keep up with the issues, but many were frustrated and angry, mainly because they didn’t know in time and were dumped in the middle of a crisis, and these were those who had heard there was a meeting going on. There were others at the meeting who held extreme views and were using the confusion to put out some pretty unhelpful views.
This is the problem, there are many lost voices out there and they are not getting the right information. They feel no connection with the well-meaning associations purporting to represent them and can fall foul of those with extreme agendas. We need to include these lost voices and do everything we can to ensure full information and reason shape the future of trucking.