The overwhelming sentiment among those attending Trucking Australia 22 was something along the lines of, ‘it’s good to be back’, as the delegates met at The Star, on the Gold Coast for the first national trucking conference since 2019.
The long period of the bushfires, pandemic and floods since the last time the Australian Trucking Association had a national conference has taken a toll on the trucking industry. So, it was with some relief that many of the great and the good, (and the not so good), got together to celebrate the ability to simply get together and chew the fat about trucks and trucking.
Surprisingly, the conference did not feature the appearance of any professional politicians despite the election campaign which was raging at the time. For many this was a relief, and the conference could get down to discussing all of the important issues relevant to the road transport world.
The agenda was wide ranging and covered many of the bases which have been of concern in the last few years, but not the centre of many discussions. This was an opportunity to see just how much progress has been made while we were away and where the pinch points could be for the future.
“What a challenge the last two years has been for our industry,” said David Smith, ATA Chair at the opening of the event. “The reliance and innovation shown by the industry to not only survive but thrive during the pandemic is testament to the great people we have in the industry. I am very proud to be working in a transport Industry which has been essential to keep the economy going during the pandemic.
“No matter the size of the challenge we have always managed to get things done. The trucking industry has many great can-do people. Millions of tons of freight year are moved by the trucking companies in this room. The task is huge and requires a lot of energy.
“I believe that the fuel for undertaking this massive task is not just diesel, but passionate, engaged people who care about keeping the warehouses, workshops, trucks and operations functioning. We put some extraordinary challenges on our people with lock downs, testing and restrictions. All resulting in changes needed to be made quickly. So the business could rapidly adapt, communicate, and engage their workforces on the new requirements. All of this requires strong leadership and communication from the people in this room.”
When Covid 19 first hit Australia the focus for trucking was initially around survival for businesses, facing uncertainty. However, freight volumes rapidly spiked and the trucking industry had to scramble to attract and retain talent. Over the two years the trucking industry has lost some good talent.
David went on to stress that the people are the fuel of the industry, and can make or break a business. He suggested retention strategies such as workforce development should now become a fundamental part of every trucking business’ DNA.
“It will soon be very clear the trucking companies that do not have retention and development of their people to fuel their business as their number one priority will be at a significant commercial disadvantage,” said David. “For this reason, I call on the incoming government to adopt an industry led skills training program to help us meet the high demand for well trained workers.
“Clearly, our ability to keep Australia functioning during the pandemic has shown how important we are to the country’s economy. Harnessing this opportunity, your trucking associations have added weight by strongly advocating for our industry through election blueprints that put key issues at the forefront.
“This addresses issues such as infrastructure investment in projects, including the inland freight route that will provide a flood alternative flood free route into North Queensland. They also deal with reform of the Workplace Relations Framework to support employers, as well as increasing tax incentives to boost the uptake of zero emissions and safety technologies. Each of these initiatives have significant economic benefits for our industry. So let’s trust that our political leaders are listening.”