Opinion

Reflecting on trucking trials and achievements

ATA-column-issue-25

From bushfires and a global pandemic to lockdowns and a national truck law review, 2020 has been a significant year for the trucking industry, which has been tried and tested but has come out on top.

Boosted by the support of our members and industry, the ATA was able to deliver great achievements for trucking in the face of adversity.

With our industry hit hard by the bushfires and the pandemic, it was our job to make sure industry members on the road, in the office and at the depot received the support and recognition they deserved.

A big issue was maintaining driver access to facilities at truck stops, distribution centres and customer sites.

Together with our members, we campaigned hard to keep facilities open and engaged with governments to ensure these businesses adopted the national protocol to allow truck facilities and dining to remain open.

It was also vital that freight was able to keep moving. We made it clear to governments that it was impractical to distinguish between essential and non-essential freight, as was tried in New Zealand.

Despite red tape, confusion, interstate inconsistency and ambiguity, the inspirational efforts of ATA member associations meant our industry could continue to operate, along with truck and trailer manufacturers and repairers.

Working collaboratively with our members, the ATA delivered many other strong achievements in 2020, especially when it came to advocating for our safety agenda.

We pushed hard for mandating advanced emergency braking for new trucks, with the Australian Government now releasing draft Australian Design Rules for the technology.

We also pushed hard for safety-focused crash investigation, with the Productivity Commission recommending that the Government transition the Australian Transport Safety Bureau into heavy vehicle crash investigations.

As the review into the national truck laws progressed, we advocated for risk-based and safety-focused reforms.

Some of the ATA’s greatest achievements this year were in supporting new investment in trucks and trailers. Our efforts, and the efforts of many others, ultimately resulted in the Australian Government’s budget decision to allow businesses with a turnover of less than $5 billion to deduct the full cost of new depreciating assets, such as trucks and trailers.

Small and medium sized businesses with a turnover of less than $50 million can also expense second-hand assets. This is a move that will support jobs and put newer, safer and greener trucks on the road.

Collaboration and extended advocacy from the ATA and our members also resulted in new measures to improve Australia’s domestic fuel security, including $200 million for building new domestic fuel storage.

The trucking industry depends on fuel. Without it, our supermarkets would be empty and deliveries brought to a standstill. The ATA’s member associations played an important role in advocating for this great win for industry and they deserve enormous credit for their work on this issue over many years.

2020 also saw Parliament pass new legislation to establish the Payment Times Reporting Scheme – a scheme that will require big businesses to report on their payment practices.

Trucking is a small and family business industry.

More than 98 per cent of trucking operators are owner-operators or small businesses. Trucking is also characterised by tight margins.

Most costs, like wages and fuel, are incurred before operators can bill their customers. Operators often have little capacity to negotiate with large customers.

The ATA has long called for strong action to deliver fair payment times for operators and has called for penalties for big businesses who continue to pay their bills late.

2020 was a challenging year, but our industry has demonstrated resilience and strength. It will continue to lead the way to a safer and more productive future.

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