Opinion

The industry deserves better bang for its buck

Most transport operators are aware of the perceived disparity between heavy vehicle drivers and the rest of the motoring community across a multitude of issues all motorists confront.

The industry for decades has well and truly paid its way for the privilege of using the road network, and providing a vital and essential service for consumers, businesses, and other users of freight. We pay a massive premium to contribute to the maintenance and upkeep of transport infrastructure, particularly roads, in the form of the road user charge and diesel fuel excises, as well as a high premium on registration and other regulatory fees and charges to keep fleets on the road.

Add to that infrastructure charges paid to the stevedores, premiums paid on tolls for using private roads, bridges and tunnels, and growing business as usual costs to insure and maintain prime movers, trailers and other plant and equipment, and operators can easily be forgiven for asking whether they deserve a better bang for their buck. Considering the effort and expense operators go to keep transport costs as low as possible for consumers of freight, the answer is a resounding yes.

Freight operators are consistently over-delivering on three of the key areas their customers assess them on – productivity, efficiency and safety. We understand customers need productivity and efficiency gains to keep their costs down and delight consumers because as businesses we need to constantly strive for gains of our own to maximise profits and reinvestments back into our people and our businesses.

We deliver productivity and efficiency gains by constantly looking for ways to do things better, faster and smarter, without cutting safety corners and endangering drivers and other road users. Often these gains are achieved at a significant cost to the operator – possibly in the form of investing in new technology, more regular training and education, and other investments to yield a greater productivity and efficiency dividend.

The VTA does its bit to help the industry be more efficient and productive by advocating for policy and regulatory settings that make it easier and less onerous for operators to serve their customers, and that keeps increases in the cost of doing business to a minimum.

We have ongoing dialogue and discussions with the state and federal transport bureaucracy about how we can reduce the amount of red tape involved with running a business and ensuring operators get fair and cost effective access to use the road network we disproportionally pay to maintain. The industry pays out millions in higher fuel excises and permit fees to use the roads, and the Association consistently advocates for heavy vehicles not to be discriminated against when it comes to determining where and when a truck can travel. Successfully capping the increase in the road user charge operators pay to use the roads to 2.5 per cent last year was a great example of how we work with other industry advocates to keep cost increases to a minimum.

We are also working hard to correct the misconception that the transport industry does not pay its way by amplifying the value the transport industry provides to customers and consumers at every point in the supply chain. This was on national display during lockdowns and border closures that crippled the national economy last year, with the transport industry working uninterrupted and without any serious incident to keep supply chains fully functional despite a global pandemic.

It is a credit to freight transport drivers who were – and continue to be – subjected to stringent conditions and requirements such as regular COVID testing, quarantining and self-isolation, in order to work across borders, that freight has continued to move unabated by road, rail and sea for the better part of 12 months. Professionalism such as this has been second to none and drivers deserve the thanks of a grateful nation.

These and other transport economic issues will be the subject of a number of interesting presentations at the annual VTA State Conference being held next month at Silverwater Resort, Phillip Island (Victoria).

Every transport operator employee has a vested interest in seeing their organisation do well financially, and we welcome operators of all sizes to join us for two days from March 21-23.

To register your attendance, visit www.vta.com.au.

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