The CEO of the Queensland Trucking Association, Gary Mahon, was talking turkey, talking footy when he decided to draw out a long analogy between playing football and the road ahead for the trucking industry in a recent speech.
“The purpose of football is fairly straightforward,” said Mahon. “It’s to get a bag full of air and put it over a line. It’s amazing how many people can make that as complicated as you could possibly think, but the reality is, that is the purpose.
“We exist for the purpose of commerce. When you simplify it, it’s to move freight from A to B. When we get involved in a regulatory regime, we get tied up in a whole load of fancy administrative legislation, etc. Then we lose sight of first principles, the reason we exist is for commerce and we accept we will do this within a safe working environment.
“When we look at the regulatory agencies, they have a remit around safety, efficiency and productivity. What I am saying is, it is time for us to sit back and reflect a little about seeing the same enthusiasm for efficiency and productivity as we see for safety. As it happens, our safety performance is actually pretty good and figures have been coming down markedly over the last twenty years.”
From Mahon’s point of view, to get the bag full of air over the line involves a lot of people of all shapes and sizes. He reckons in what he calls a ‘healthy realm of competition’ they all get to be winners on their day. Administrators have introduced rules to the game, and sometimes they intervene too far and disrupt the game. They change the rules and step back, to allow the football to proceed.
“The principle applies for us, in that a lighter hand of regulation – but inserted in the right place and at the right depth – gives commerce the opportunity to function and produce economically for this country,” said Mahon. “We exist for commerce and we accept we want to conduct it safely. We contribute 8.6 per cent to the GDP of this country, that is a significant chunk of change. We are a healthy employer.
“When you pump money into road infrastructure, you raise levels of productivity. When you raise levels of productivity, you lower the cost of production. When you lower the cost of production, you increase demand. That’s why we do what we do.”
Mahon stressed that he was not arguing against the stress put on safety by the authorities, but rather he wants the case to be made of putting further emphasis on both productivity and efficiency. He is looking for the trucking industry to be on the front foot, shaping policy and not rolling with whatever rules are imposed on it.