By the time we get to the ATA conference in March, the trucking industry will have seen a lot of changes in the past year or so, among the people representing stakeholders. A large proportion of those representing the transport industry in industry associations, as well as those heading the important government agencies and organisations we deal with, are part of leadership changes.
Whether all of these changes are just a coincidence, or whether there is some major shift in the way the politics of the trucking industry is being played out, is a matter for conjecture. The next couple of years will show us just how the relationship between trucking, the general public, state government, federal government, the rules and other industries will play out, with different personnel in the driving seat.
As of March, Chris Melham takes over from Stuart St Clair at the Australian Trucking Association. This change means there will be a new face of NatRoad, Warwick Ragg. The leadership of the Victorian Transport Association changed abruptly in 2014 with Peter Anderson taking over the helm after the departure of Neil Chambers.
A long 25 year relationship with Australian trucking associations came to an end last year with Andrew Higginson stepping away from involvement with the Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association and the Livestock and Bulk Carriers Association. This move also saw Emma Higginson departing and joining the dark side, with state government in Sydney.
At the same time, the National Transport Commission got a new CEO in Paul Retter and the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator saw a change in the person steering the organisation through choppy waters, with the departure of Richard Hancock and the arrival Sal Petroccitto in the CEO role. This has been followed by the appointment of a completely new leadership team at the NHVR this week.
Of course, there are still a number of key leaders in place. The leadership in South Australia, Queensland, the Territory and in Western Australia have been in place for some time and look to remain influential.
What can this new blood do for us? How does it change the way the trucking business is perceived and regulated? Many in the industry will be hoping for a change in the climate of a lot of relationships.
One of the key factors is going to be the way the general community perceives the transport industry. If trucking can transform the relationship with others on the road, an easier relationship with the powers that be will follow. A better public image could create an atmosphere where people like Peter Wells from the NSW RMS aren’t encouraged to go on TV and talk about irresponsible and dangerous practices in the trucking industry, like we saw a year ago.
This is going to be a long process, so we need to start now. The trucking industry will always be a political punching bag, all of the time we give them the ammunition and do not engage with the community at large.
There is no face of the trucking industry. When a bad accident happens, or a stringent law hits us, there is no go-to trucking industry person to whom the media can turn. The only person quoted is often, the much more media savvy, Tony Sheldon from the TWU, who talks in sound bites and drives a unified and coherent agenda.
Where is trucking’s unified and coherent agenda? Are any of the new representatives going to be able to step up to the plate and give us the kind of representation we deserve? Can we improve the industry’s image to the point where we are treated as responsible citizens? Let’s get the story out there.