This week has seen an interesting twist on the normal narrative from the NSW Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight, Duncan Gay. Departing from the rhetoric of recent times, when dealing with the trucking industry, he came out with a comment about the chattering classes in Sydney causing more pollution than trucks.
This came about in a presentation in Sydney and was reported by Jacob Saulwick from the Sydney Morning Herald. Duncan was defending the development of motorways in Sydney against, what he called ‘anti-roads zealots’. He has been under attack from a group called the Committee for Sydney, who are calling for upgrades in public transport and a reduction in the development of new road routes into the centre of Sydney.
“If you talk about particulate matter, there is more particulate matter goes into the air over the city of Sydney from the chattering class sitting around their log fire and a glass of chardonnay [talking about] that horrible Duncan Gay, they put more particulate matter into the air of Sydney by a factor of four or five than heavy vehicles ever did ” said Duncan, according to the SMH.
It’s nice to hear the NSW Minister can be on our side a bit more often than he has been in the past two years or so. Ever since the unfortunate incident in Lane Cove with the Cootes tanker, Duncan has stuck with the hard line favoured by the RMS, when talking to the general media. Of course, he has been more conciliatory when talking directly to the trucking industry. He is a politician after all.
In actual fact, the article in the SMH does illustrate something the trucking industry and those who represent us should think about a little more. In many ways, road transport and governments of all persuasions do have common cause when it comes to dealing with the fear of all things trucking, which appears to have become embedded in the general public.
The trucking industry does need an improved public relations strategy, just to get some simple basic points about the absolute necessity of having heavy trucks on the road in the middle of our big cities, just to keep the wheels of the Australian economy turning. We can go on and on, preaching to the converted about without trucks Australia stops, but the message is not cutting through.
On the other hand, the state and federal governments do need to improve the road infrastructure. Even modest economic growth is going to create massive congestion in our capital cities, if new infrastructure isn’t in place. Funding big infrastructure projects is also going to stimulate the local economy, injecting cash into sectors which need to grow.
There are always going to be NIMBY issues when roads are built. We can also always expect opposition to every large truck travelling through or close by a inner city suburb. This is simply human nature, protecting what’s ours.
What both trucking and the governments require is for the opposition to be limited and local, area specific. In that scenario individual pinch points can be worked out one at a time.
What we need to avoid is a situation where the general feeling in the city community, in all suburbs, is generally anti-truck. That is when major infrastructure projects get canned.
Perhaps Duncan’s comment were a bit confrontational, but the point needs to be made and we as an industry need to be making it as well. There is a need to separate the issues out a little. Trucking has to go hard on governments about the fine detail of regulation and planning to ensure productivity and safety are preserved, but work along with them in the broader project of dampening down some of the truck bashing in the general community.