In the light of the news Chris Melham is moving on from his post at the Australian Trucking Association, the trucking community must keep forging ahead. There is no room for internal bickering or territory battles, the industry is still facing major issues and needs to remain united and continue to fight the good fight.
Since his arrival as CEO at NatRoad, some time ago, and then his move across to the ATA last year, Chris has been all about dialogue. There has not been a lot of standing on the stump and shouting the odds, although there are sometimes occasions when this is required! No, we have seen a steady improvement in the communication between the trucking industry and other stakeholders.
The improvement in the relationships we need has been tangible. We do not need to be in a situation where the National Transport Commission, the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator or various transport ministers are subject to a haranguing in private and unexpected comments in public.
Those in charge of policy and regulation need to feel comfortable in their communication with the industry, they need to know there is going to be a rational discourse where hard things may be said, but each is able to get their side across and work towards some form of consensus.
All of the big improvements achieved have been when the ATA and others have been able to sit down in a room, lay their cards on the table, make assurances and gain concessions until something has been done. Trucking needs to make decision makers in Canberra and the state capitals comfortable, then the level of trust improves, then they tend to stop threatening the big stick.
The current big stick seems to be being wielded by the NSW Industrial Commission with the move to extend the provisions of the General Carriers Contract Determination being extended from just Sydney to cover the whole of NSW. This is causing a great deal of concern among many in the industry as it will have a similar effect to the RSRT, whose abolition came after massive protests in the lead up to the last election.
On this subject, one of Chris’s successors, Warren Clark, NatRoad CEO, is having to stand up and shout the odds. This fight is one of those where the pressure needs to be kept on those involved, while the industry needs to mobilise in readiness for any actions the Industrial Commission may mount.
The situation is in danger of degenerating into a war of words between NatRoad and the Transport Workers Union, one thing we always need to avoid, but cannot step back from when push comes to shove.
In this situation, the ATA can get itself in a difficult position. Officially, it does not handle industrial relations issues, but needs to be clear on its position as to issues like this. At the same time, everyone needs to be singing from the same hymn sheet.
With Chris moving on we need to find another operator to fulfil quite a difficult task. The CEO of the ATA actually has a relative few members to deal with, mainly the state-based and national associations, but these all have a large number of vociferous members who see the ATA as representing them and look to it to do the right thing, in their opinion, for trucking at all times.