Industry must focus on supply chain value

Rarely a week passes in the transport industry where there isn’t talk somewhere about banning trucks from a road here, or introducing a heavy vehicle curfew on a street there, all with the underlying expectation operators can adjust to the change without raising costs.

In Victoria, heavy vehicle movement restrictions are becoming part of the playbook for MPs wanting quick ‘wins’ for their constituents, as we’ve seen recently with extensions to curfews on trucks using Beach Road in Labor MP Martin Foley’s Albert Park electorate.

The unfortunate by-product of such laziness in this example is the unnecessary pitting of the industry against the community. This sets back years of progress and compromise industry has made with resident groups and local government stakeholders elsewhere, and detracts from the professionalism our industry aspires to every day.

The Victorian Transport Association (VTA) constantly highlights professionalism within the industry to educate consumers in the community about how supply chains work, and why they must pay for onerous new restrictions and red tape that increase operator costs.

That professionalism is evident in the soaring numbers of operators offering driver training and education, attempts to tighten heavy vehicle licensing requirements to improve standards, and a general willingness among operators, industry groups and regulators to constantly review themselves for opportunities to improve.

Indeed, ours is an industry that is accepting of change. That change has led to operational and mechanical improvements, efficiency and productivity gains, and safer and more efficient heavy vehicles and related equipment.

The regrettable flipside is that as an industry we are being hit by some of the very communities and their representatives we aim to serve, many of whom are not as accepting to the kind of change they demand of the industry.

Safety and amenity are typically the default triggers behind some self-interest groups’ insistence that the transport industry increasingly surrender access to infrastructure and other road privileges, without making any concessions of their own to offset higher costs and lost productivity.

The irony is that as an industry we are all about improving safety and amenity for operators and residents, taking tangible steps to teach drivers to be safer and spending many thousands of dollars on new trucks that are quieter and create fewer emissions.
A truck driver will always choose to use the bigger road away from houses and schools where the option is there and it will save them time and money. Civic leaders and planners should factor that into their infrastructure thinking.

The requirement that a future West Gate Tunnel operator must encourage use of the proposed toll road through discounts and other incentives for operators was a welcome sign that governments are starting to understand they can’t simply ban trucks from using roads without compensation.

The reality for operators is that their costs are going up, whether through energy and fuel prices, tolls, infrastructure usage fees or other user charges. These increases must be passed on through the supply chain to customers, who need to accept the need for price increases that offset higher costs.

It is no longer sustainable for transport operators to absorb these costs, and this underscores the importance of the industry teaching consumers how supply chains work, so that they appreciate the ripple effect of higher prices, and how not passing them on could impact the economy.

Examples of professionalism from our industry were on display at last month’s Australian Freight Industry Awards, where seven award winners from six categories were acknowledged for their achievements.

Congratulations to Personality of the Year award winner, Dr Hermione Parsons; Young Achiever of the Year winner, Matt Simmons from Rocke Brothers; Waste & Recycling Award winner, FBT Transwest; Application of Technology Award winners, Redstar Transport and Victoria International Container Terminal; Best Practice Safety Award winner, Metropolitan Express Transport Services; and Investment in People Award winner, DP World Australia.

The VTA had a very enthusiastic response to these awards, as evidenced by the dozens of applications judges assessed in determining the winners. Congratulations to all the winners and finalists on their tremendous achievements, and for working to continually improve the standards of our industry, which helps to make it safer and more productive for everyone.

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