Rules of Engagement

Western Roads Federation was established to provide a relevant and united voice for the road transport industry operating in Western Australia. Cam Dumesny has been CEO for nine years.
Cam Dumesny in Perth.

Growing up in country Victoria where his father was a heavy vehicle mechanic, Cam Dumesny joined the Australian Army where he was an officer specialising in logistics and then technology during postings in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom.

After leaving the defence force Cam has drawn upon the skills and experience he acquired and found a natural fit in providing advocacy for the road transport industry.

“I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it,” he says.

“I sometimes feel like I’m representing an under-dog industry which is grossly under respected for what it does. We don’t argue our business case very well because we’ve never made the case to the politicians and the community about how much value we add to the economy.”

Operators are sometimes their own worst enemies.

Cam acknowledges that some need to better understand the true costs of operating and charge accordingly to provide the necessary accruals for factors such as maintenance and tyres and unexpected costs.

“They all need to be factored into the price,” he says. “I sometimes wonder if people are buying a lifestyle. It is a lifestyle industry in a way but at the end of the day it’s also a business.”

In his no-nonsense approach to advocacy Cam is aware of the challenges.

One of which is to make the industry important to the economy and government.

“If we can get them to accept that we are worth a quarter of a trillion dollars to the economy then it’s a lot easier to get investment in better roads, better rest areas, and better training for our industry,” says Cam.

“We are out arguing for those all the time, but they don’t see that the investment is going to help improve the economy of the country.”

Because of the vast emptiness of much of Western Australia the road infrastructure doesn’t always have the same visibility as perhaps the Hume or Bruce highways.

“Out of sight, out of mind,” says Cam. “Which leads to another problem which is the disparity of investment in infrastructure which is increasingly in capital cities. Recent reports show the Victorian government is about to spend 40 times the Victorian annual road maintenance budget just on 15 kilometres of freeway in Melbourne.”

Cam sees the situation not being confined to Western Australia.

“The quality of our regional freight network is just absolutely below average and is maintained to a bad standard,” he says.

Extreme weather conditions too often show up the lack of all-weather sealed roads which brings road freight to a standstill or requires lengthy diversions to enable vital freight items to be delivered.

Regular seasonal disruptions in places such as the Kimberley region require trucks to travel from Perth to Darwin via Port Augusta as there is no alternative route.

“We’ve still only got two sealed roads across Australia and they are 2,000 kilometres apart,” says Cam.

“If the gravel Great Central Road was sealed it would provide an alternative to the Kimberley route that would only be about 100 kilometres longer. Being able to travel from Kalgoorlie and Laverton through to Alice Springs saves about 1,200 kilometres on the alternative through Port Augusta.

“You could seal that road for around $2 million per kilometre, so around $2 billion to seal all the way from Laverton to Alice Springs. $2 billion does about four kilometres of freeway in Sydney.

“Yet it’s really hard to win the argument, although one opens up the nation and the other saves about five minutes.”

The Western Australian Government took the decision not to participate in the Heavy Vehicle National Law administered by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator which doesn’t surprise Cam.

“At this point there hasn’t been a compelling reason for WA to join and the Northern Territory is in a similar situation,” he says.

“Bear in mind that statistically the large majority of WA freight occurs within the state without much cross-border movements and most the remaining freight from the east comes via rail.”

WRF has established a strong relationship with the local mainstream media and is recognised as the “go to” body for all things involving road freight.

“We don’t go picking fights against rail or air or sea because we need all four modes working together,” say Cam.

“We’ll obviously advocate for road but we also recognise the importance of rail, sea and air in the freight mix, so we advocate for a freight strategy that’s inclusive and having that approach opens us up a bit more to the general media.”

Having the WRF adopt an apolitical approach has been important as well.

“We can’t be politically biased,” says Cam. “You’ve got to be able to represent issues to all political parties so we’re not on the outer if there is a change of government.”

An example of the benefits of this philosophy has been in enlisting the Greens to support the use of High Productivity Vehicles capable of moving four 20-foot containers from the Fremantle port using trucks with lower emissions and higher-level safety packages.

“The industry sees modern, safe, and lower emission trucks but the community sees some landscaper using 30-year old truck to shift their bobcat around and belching black soot,” says Cam.

“As far as they are concerned that’s a ‘truck’ yet his core business is the bobcat, the truck just gets them from job to job. But that’s what they see, and we pay a penalty for it.” With that said, Cam has concerns that the image of the industry is not improving.

“We had a higher profile during COVID but governments, collectively both state and national, have lost interest in it as has the community,” he opines.

“The only time we get a good profile is when there is a flood or fire disruption and the community goes without, and it’s the trucks that roll in. We never capitalise on it in terms of wins for our industry and it’s just a short-term blip on the mainstream media.”

Social media can, perhaps too often, deliver mixed coverage.

“There is a very entrenched opinion of truck drivers and the transport industry and often the biggest problem the industry has is itself,” says Cam. “People like Heather Jones [Pilbarra Heavy Haulage Girls] and Glen

“Yogi” Kendall get out and try to advocate that it’s a good professional industry, but then you get drivers on social media attacking them and pulling them down.”

Despite that, the WRF’s united approach is paying dividends in terms of recruiting and training as well as obtaining funding for facilities such as rest areas.

“We work with the livestock association and the TWU and we don’t agree on everything but work on what we do have in common,” says Cam.

“You can make some differences by working together such as achieving the $50 million allocated by the Government for heavy vehicle rest areas.”

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