Expert line-up at VTA conference

The VTA team has made great progress planning for our annual state conference, being held at Silverwater Resort, Phillip Island in a little over two weeks. 

The March 19-21 conference is a unique opportunity to hear from experts on a wide range of topics and issues. It’s also a chance for operators to engage directly with key decision makers from government and regulators, making them active participants on the issues that matter most in our industry and helping to bring about meaningful change.

In this column I thought it timely to share some of the content we will be presenting at State Conference 2023 in the event you or part of your team can join us. VTA conferences are known for being fast-paced and content-rich, and with close to 30 confirmed speakers, this year continues that tradition.

We’ve selected People First – Managing Transport’s Greatest Asset as our theme, which has been inspired by the enormous challenges freight operators have had in recent years when it comes to attracting, hiring, and retaining staff – especially drivers.

The pandemic has caused labour shortages in numerous industries, but for freight and logistics, it merely added additional challenges to a sector that has experienced entrenched worker shortages for decades. 

Why has this been the case? 

Is it because transport workers aren’t paid well enough? Is it because of a perception heavy vehicle drivers spend days and days on the road? Is it because people don’t see a career path in freight and logistics. Is the industry still shrouded in the stigma that driving a truck or working in a warehouse is just a job, as opposed to the profession it is?

These are some of the questions that will be asked and answered at State Conference 2023, which pleasingly has attracted the interest of the key Commonwealth and Victorian government decision-makers.

WA Labor Senator Glenn Sterle will address delegates at our welcome dinner, with his remarks likely inspired by work from the Senate Rural Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee he chairs. Sterle has long held a passion for safety and improved conditions for drivers and operators and we look forward to his remarks.

Also addressing our welcome dinner is Nationals deputy leader and Victorian Senator Bridget McKenzie, who was appointed Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development after the last federal election. It’s important we get a range of perspectives and we’re thrilled Senator McKenzie is joining us for the first time.

The conference formally gets underway with a keynote address from Victorian Minister for Roads & Road Safety and Ports & Freight, Melissa Horne. Minister Horne leads an influential Victorian public service delegation that will address delegates across a myriad of issues. Among this will be presentations from the Department of Transport and Freight Victoria on the VTA’s successful partnership with government that is recruiting, training and then placing new people into our industry. 

When it comes to infrastructure, Victoria has one of the biggest road and rail building programs in Australia, with much of this work well advanced or about to step up a notch. All the major road authorities will be at State Conference 2023 and it will be especially interesting to have project updates from the West Gate Tunnel Project and the North East Link Project.

We know heavy vehicle access is a critical issue for operators so having the project managers of these two multi-billion dollar tunnelling projects will be timely, particularly for drivers and operators working in and around the Port of Melbourne, and traversing between the Eastern Freeway and Metropolitan Ring Road.

The remaining sessions will cover off important issues like safety and industrial relations, equipment and technology, where delegates will hear from industry experts like the Queensland Trucking Association’s Gary Mahon, Michael Kaine from the Transport Workers’ Union, Transport Certification Australia’s Gavin Wood, and Victoria Police Superintendent John Fitzpatrick.

You can register for all or part of the conference and review the full program by visiting vta.com.au.

  • Peter Anderson is CEO, Victorian Transport Association

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