The old Chinese saying, ‘may you live in interesting times’ is not actually Chinese, but it does refer to the current situation, with radical changes for the trucking industry happening now and bearing down on us in the future. However, if there is one industry in Australia which can cope with this, it’s trucking.
The whole road transport sector has been thrown into confusion in the last 18 months by a curve ball that came from nowhere in the form of the coronavirus. An industry beset by inconsistent and contrary regulations anyway, just had another layer of confusing and constantly changing rules around testing, border permits, et al, thrown over the situation.
If there is one quality in the trucking industry, as a whole, it is the ability to adapt to change and just make things work. If the national supply chains fail, the country goes into crisis. They didn’t fail, the industry did what it always does, it got the job done.
We made like a swan, everything above the surface is nice and smooth. Meanwhile, behind the scenes the freight was arriving, accompanied by the correct paperwork, certificates, permits and whatever else was needed.
All of this extra work was ignored and completely unnoticed by the general public, who were expecting to find beer at the bottle-o, bread at the bakery and toilet rolls at the supermarket, and they did.
Furthermore, despite it being a close run thing some times, the processes put in place where people in the industry interact, were done in such a way that very little of the transmission of the virus going on around the country could be blamed on the activities of the trucking community.
The whole process was a swift and relatively well executed reimagining of the whole supply chain to help protect the population, and in the main, it worked.
The other issues driving radical changes for the trucking industry are a bit of a slow burn, but they are coming to get us whether we like it or not and we will have to adapt, smartly and quickly, to get through.
One of those issues is already causing a stir this week. The ‘uberisation’ of the freight industry has been talked about quite a lot over the last few years but is now starting to bite. The two industrial disputes between the Transport Workers Union and two operators, Startrack and Fedex are simply symptoms of a much bigger change.
The mobile app based model has already radically shifted the balance of power in the taxi industry, driving down price and driving up service expectations. This model is working its way into the small items freight business and is likely to work its way up the weight range to a certain extent.
Road transport is going to have to show its innate adaptability and resourcefulness to survive the changes which will follow the shifting business model at the parcel delivery level. It is the big companies’ attempts to adapt to these changes which have ignited these disputes.
Our ability to adapt to radical changes and the Australia genius for innovative solutions is also going to sorely stretched as the move over to a zero emissions requirement comes into play in our industry.
I have confidence in the trucking community’s resourcefulness and resilience to be able to adapt and get through all of these issues. I am also confident that working in the trucking industry during these structural changes is going to be as frustrating and as confusing as it always has been. She’ll be right.