From the evidence of a few events recently it seems we need to think about the need to speak up for smaller operators. The fact of the matter is that the small companies predominate in the trucking industry, but when it comes to big picture decision making, this group have very little say in what is going on.
In his speech to the Productivity Commission this week, Warren Clarke, NatRoad CEO, referred to a report by the Transport and Logistics Industry Reference Committee (IRC), an organisation of which I had never heard.
Warren was pointing out that 80 per cent of all the respondents in the IRC Skills Forecast 2019 were saying that they had experienced a skills shortage in the past 12 months. This is not a surprise to anyone associated with trucking, but probably came as a surprise to the IRC and the Productivity Commission.
Looking through the make up of the committee of the IRC, which compiled the report, and comparing the results of the Skills Forecast clearly demonstrates one of the issues in trucking and why so many of those in the industry, working for smaller operations feel disconnected from the way the industry works, unable to have any say in their own future.
The IRC is dominated by representatives of the major players in transport and logistics. Yet, in the survey results the number tell us just what’s going on in the business. Yes, there are 175 large businesses and 1,770 medium ones involved in the transport and logistics industry, but there are 183,491 small businesses involved.
These kinds of numbers and this kind of representation is repeated in just about every committee and board which is looking at the issues and coming up with solutions.
When policy is being made and decisions on the future of the trucking industry are being laid out, how many of those 183,491 operators felt their collective voice was heard. My guess is not many.
Yes, Warren does represent a large number of politically active small businesses who are willing to agitate and try and get some representation. They do get things done, but often in a very reactive way, when the problem is already wreaking havoc and something needs to be done now. The long lost RSRT issues come to mind, nobody seemed to see the problem until the proverbial hit the fan.
The issues need to be headed off at the pass, at the point when they are rearing their ugly heads in the talking shops which affect the interests of the trucking industry.
Of course, the problem is the big companies have layers of management whose job it is to sit on this and that committee. The small operator can only hope that the few representatives of the trucking industry as whole can manage to get their voices heard, that they will speak up for smaller operators.
The smaller operator is simply too busy, most of the time, trying to turn a wheel and make dollar, to be anything but a policy taker. The new rules and regulations, procedures and codes arrive with little warning and very little input from the small operations on which the industry depends.