A meeting with a selection of owner/drivers yesterday gave me much food for thought about how people in the trucking industry communicate with each other. The forum, one of many running all through this month was organised by the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO).
The object of the meetings are to get a picture of the effects of the introduction of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, and the ongoing problems it caused in its short life. ASBFEO CEO, Kate Carnell, is travelling around the country trying to get a picture of the situation to enable her to compile a report on the RSRT for the next government, to help it avoid the same mistakes.
Much of the discussion was pretty predictable, the experience of many owner/operators will have been very similar, with the introduction of so much instability and uncertainty, and now larger contractors remaining wary of using small subbies.
A telling question was when Kate asked the assembled small operators how they found out about the introduction of the RSRT and its implications. The common thread revolved around how ill-informed people were and how long it took for anyone to realise just what the implications were for the industry, in the face of the impending introduction of the RSRT on April 4.
The channels of communication for many small operators are minimal. Many work isolated in their own areas and industry segment and do not interact regularly with others in the same position. They are too busy keeping the wheels turning and the wolf from the door to have time to keep up with the latest news in the industry or network with their peers.
A story came out about an owner/driver who found out about the existence and implications of the introduction of the RSRT when the company, for whom he worked most of the time, told him it would no longer be using him as a sub-contractor.
This kind of situation points to a failure by all of us in serving the whole of the trucking industry. Everyone in the know and involved in disseminating information has a duty to ensure we make as much effort as we can to make sure as a many people as possible, who are effected by issues, are as informed as they need to be.
The trucking industry is notoriously difficult to communicate with, there are so many working in their own small silos, oblivious to the world around them. They do not consume much media, outside of the general media, who studiously ignore trucking anyway. Owner/operators do not, often, interact with the industry associations who are there to look after their interests.
As part of the trade media, we at Diesel News try hard to get the message out as widely as possible. All media outlets targeting the trucking industry struggle to get increased cut through in some sectors of the trucking industry. Many within the larger operators get regular updates, but as you go down through to the smaller operators, readership does dwindle.
Hopefully, this series of meetings will make the point to those who can do something about getting the message out to those who need it. Diesel News will certainly be re-examining its strategy and looking at new avenues to get the useful information we have available to us, out to those who need it.
Those claiming to represent those working in the industry also need to do a bit of self-examination. Well-meaning communication put out by industry associations can sometimes be a matter of preaching to the converted. Maybe this is not good enough anymore, we need to, jointly and collectively, make sure an issue like the RSRT doesn’t creep up on people in the industry who are completely unaware again.