In a period of stop/start lockdowns and limited social interaction, rural Queensland, which has remained relatively Covid-free, finally hosted the twice delayed annual conference of the Livestock and Rural Transporters Association of Queensland in Roma.
“Perhaps the greatest challenge to the Queensland livestock transport industry at the moment, and this is probably true throughout our national association is a shortfall in our workforce and attracting drivers and other people,” said Gerard Johnson, LRTAQ President. “We need to find ways to attract them into the industry and at the moment we have improve efficiency to take up the slack caused by the lack of labour available.”
These sentiments were echoed by a local politician, Barcaldine Regional Council Mayor, Sean Dillon.
“I thank god that the Queensland beef industry is a couple of million head down and there’s been a big shift towards feed-lotting, because if and when we go back to moving large numbers of grass-fed slaughter cattle, you won’t have enough trucks,” said Sean. “If you do have enough trucks, you won’t have enough drivers. Short of fixing the human resources issue, having bigger combinations moving further than they currently can is a solution, or a stop-gap solution.”
For the perspective from the national point of view the conference heard from an LRTAQ stalwart and ALRTA Vice President, Ian Wild.
“These are testing times, “said Ian. “We’ve had droughts, fires, floods, trade wars and a global pandemic, but Australia has pulled through remarkably well. After experiencing shortages of farm and consumer necessities, Australians now better recognise the essential role of the trucking industry in this country.
“Moving drought-stricken stock to better pasture, delivering fodder after fires, emergency livestock movements or just restocking toilet paper at the supermarket, there are people who thank you dearly.
“When truck stop cafes and showers were forced to close, we were the first to raise the issue with government, and get these places operating again. When border crossing rules were unworkable, we sought improvements.”
It has been two years since the last LRTAQ conference, so there was a lot to catch up on for Mathew Munro, the ALRTA Executive Director, as he brought the Queenslanders up to date with other issues on the national scene.
On of the big wins has been the removal of the rule to include the vehicle registration of the truck doing the work, on livestock Class 3 movement permits. This has made it possible to get permits in advance, as any truck of the correct size is covered by the permit. It is no longer a difficult last minute application process for farmers and livestock transporters.
“In November last year, Standards Australia published a national ramp standard,” said Mathew. “Loading and unloading is the most dangerous part of the job. Our ramp guide was published in 2015 and after an unfortunate death in Victoria, the coroner there said there should be a standard for ramp design and condition.
“We sat down with Standards Australia, it was a whole of supply chain discussion. That standard has now been published and the committee received the ‘Outstanding Committee Award’ from Standards Australia for its work.
“Again, awareness is key. While the standard is out there, we need people to get the message out there. We are really relying on our members to get the word out there.”