Stability? Who Needs It?

Talking Turkey About Trucking

The trucking industry needs some kind of stability if it is to continue to improve and grow, as the Australian economy needs it to do. Any growth in the Australian economy stimulates an even bigger increase in the freight task, most of which the trucking industry has to pick up. Conversely, constriction on growth in the trucking industry can also lead to a throttling back of economic growth, if supply chain bottlenecks begins to appear.


Any growth needs a stable regulatory climate in which to work. The recent years have seen a steady advance towards a clear regulatory system of some sort, with the arrival of a pragmatic and effective National Heavy Vehicle Regulator. Progress was being made and we could see a clear future path ahead of us.


Now the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal has put a spanner in the works destabilising the whole thing to a point where we are worse off than ten years ago. In fact, it is the way the Tribunal itself is acting which is causing the most problems.


No-one has any idea whether they are coming or going.The most recent order from the RSRT has left everyone’s operation hanging on a set of rules which are unclear and simply destabilising.


Talk to suppliers to the industry, the trailer industry has seen orders dry up in recent months. No-one is willing to commit to a new piece of capital equipment, if the subbie system collapses. It may not happen, but it might. That’s enough.


Others are reporting similar apprehension. A massive proportion of the trucking industry has been targeted by the order, owner operators and small operators. Even if your transport business doesn’t deal with anyone covered by the Order, somewhere in the supply chain there will be someone who is.


In fact, most people in the trucking industry do not know whether they are or are not included in the umbrella definitions of those covered by the Order. What we can all be sure of is, the full implementation of the Order right now will be incredibly disruptive.


Trucking will be thrown into disarray, the supply chain will be disrupted and the general public may well see the supply of some goods dry up quite quickly, always a recipe for disaster.


When this kind of stuff hits the airwaves, on our news bulletins etc, its will probably be seen as the truckies’ fault, it always is. An industry which craves stability and certainty will be branded as the cause of instability and the reason for a blip in Australia’s economic growth.


It’s almost as if the RSRT’s Contract Driver Order was designed to cause instability. Surely that couldn’t be the case?


The details of the Order were first released on the Friday before Christmas. Industry reaction got caught up in the industry’s busiest time of the year, followed by the holiday period. For the politicians in Canberra, the holiday period lasts past the end of January.


There was no traction to be made in the first six weeks after the Order’s announcement, but it was due to come into effect on April 4. This hasn’t left much time for any negotiations or submissions to be made.


Now the last month or so has seen the scenarios change again, where the RSRT has dangled the carrot of a delay in implementation until next January, but its has been by no means certain. Destabilising? Yes indeed. Good for the economy? Absolutely not.