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Perfect timing for truckies’ annual summit


The National Road Freighters Association (NRFA) came together on February 10 for their annual conference, this year held at Shepparton, Victoria, and the timing could not have been better, given the Closing Loopholes Bill was passed just a couple of days prior.

The NRFA has been leading the charge in putting forward submissions to the powers-that-be. Outgoing president Rod Hannifey, his successor Glyn Castanelli, board members, including Gordon Mackinlay and Julie Downey, have been at the forefront of the association’s fight for change.

“Since we fought against the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal [RSRT], we have been lobbying for change,” Mackinlay said.

“We knew that it was going to have to be a whole-of-industry approach – and that meant putting aside egos, joining forces with other industry bodies and fostering relationships with, what some may have considered strange bedfellows, such as the TWU.

“It is of paramount importance to note that Closing Loopholes is not a return of the RSRT. Parties who originally promoted that concept came to realise how flawed that legislation was, and worked with the industry to get the result in Canberra that we’ve been fighting for, for so long.”

“It’s the beginning of what we believe will be momentous change for the industry as a whole,” added Castanelli. “Particularly for the small operator, many of whom the NFRA represent. There’s much work still to do, but this organisation has ridden the bumps since the RSRT and its overturning.

“We’ll continue to represent our members and the wider industry to see the Closing Loopholes Bill passed into law. And we’ll work with whomever’s interests align with ours.”

The conference’s importance – and by inference the NRFA’s standing – was reflected by the presence of politicians of varying persuasions.

WA Labor Senator Glenn Sterle, who has championed the bill in parliament, attended, along with The National’s Senator, Brigitte McKenzie (who somewhat curiously iterated her party’s opposition to the bill) and local Nat, Sam Birrell who was more circumspect and positive in his speech.

NSW Minister for Regional Transport and Roads, Jenny Aitchison attended and Tony Burke MP and Senator Carol Brown delivered recorded messages.

In response to Brigitte McKenzie’s comments, NRFA board member and MC for the evening, Craig Forsyth iterated what many in the room no doubt felt, when he said: “I would like to address both sides of government. Our [the transport industry] plight has gone through many terms of many different governments. The state of the roads, the state of our industry has been hand-balled from one term of government to another.

“I hope in the future that we can actually work together in a bipartisan way so that we can advance the cause for all parties. The infighting in the political realm of this industry doesn’t do anyone any good – from the consumer to the drivers.”

Whilst there were a number of presentations throughout the day, questions from the floor, particularly during the panel sessions, inevitably revolved around the Canberra events and it was evident that some in the room – mindful of the RSRT debacle – held reservations regarding the Closing Loopholes Bill.

It was also evident that industry representatives including  Peter Anderson (VTA CEO/secretary-treasurer ARTIO), Gary Mahon (QTA/ARTIO) and Michelle Harwood (TTA/ARTIO) were united in their response that the bill was a major step forward for the betterment of the transport industry as a whole.

Prof. Kim Hassall is the national chair of The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) and spoke at length of the body’s three-year investigation and report into the National Heavy Vehicle Driver Competency Framework, which called for massive change in licensing and training of heavy vehicle drivers – some of which were accepted while others were vetoed by stakeholders.

Topics covered included discontinuing the jump from an HR straight to an MC licence, and conversations surrounding licencing beyond MC. Grouping a 19 metre B-double and a 60-metre, 200 tonne, quad road train under the same licence qualification is clearly not ideal, said Prof. Hassall.

CILT has proposed radical changes to driver training in terms of the learning experience and framework. Thirty hours of driver training with a review undertaken bi-annually to gain an MC licence was one example proffered.

A 2.5-hour online hazard perception test, online regulatory learning and a proposed 4.5 hour assessment for an MC licence were also put forward, along with night-time training.

Also present were Sal Petroccitto, CEO of the NHVR and Aaron de Rozario, executive leader, regulatory reform of the National Transport Commission. The two provided insights into their respective bodies and the difficulties they face due to Australia’s multi-tiered government instrumentalities.

“It is 10 years ago to this day that the NHVL was enacted by the Queensland Parliament,” said Sal Petroccitto. “I hope the industry will see for themselves what we have achieved, in what is a very complicated regulatory framework.

“One of the benefits that came with the removal of the RSRT was the $38 million that came to this organisation and have pumped out into 150 projects: the education programs, the introduction of technology whereby interceptions by our officers which were 30 to 40 minutes are now down to around 15 minutes.

“We have invested a lot of time with the magistrates and the legal system to help them better understand what is a very complex piece of legislation. The other thing that hopefully industry sees as positive is we’ve changed the attitude of our officers. It is now not one of confrontation but of education. I think that approach and willingness to help has been invaluable. I think we have become much more accessible. There is more work to do in that space but I’m hoping you can see that we are trying.”

Executive director of the Tasmanian Trucking Association (TTA), Michelle Harwood, spoke of collaborations and partnerships in that state which may have not happened in other parts of the country, in particular the Heavy Vehicle Access Management System.

This system allows an operator to go on-line, input departure and destination points and detail the vehicle and load he is carrying. HVAMS will instantly display legal access on a map of local and state roads, based on assessment of the actual vehicle against each road and structure. Changes can be added at any time for instant updating.

By way of illustration, 700 application permits for cranes in Tasmania were submitted in 2018-19. In 2021-22 that was reduced to just 16. This is an exciting piece of computer-generated architecture which is coming to the mainland and can’t get there soon enough.

The evening saw a presentation from Miles Crawford – general manager CMV Truck & Bus giving a fascinating history of the company and the Jim Crawford Heritage Collection of trucks. This was followed by the Eyre Hub vision, a plan being put in place by the Kimba community for a hub to cater to the many demands of the transport sector when traversing their town on the journey west.

No night can be complete without awards and this year, NRFA Life Membership was bestowed upon Mackinlay for his tireless work within the organisation.

The Terrie Bradley Award (named after the first secretary of the NRFA) went to Andrea Hamilton-Vaughan of Orange City Council and Power Nap. The Noel Porter Award (a stalwart of the NRFA who has sadly passed) went to Chris Roe.

“I look at this as an award for each and every one of the board and the membership who have absolutely busted their arses to get this thing on the road,” Roe said.

“This is for everybody.”

  • For more conference coverage, look out for the March 1 issue of Big Rigs at your usual outlet.

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