Opinion

Time to lead, make strong decisions and to act

The last couple of years have been a seemingly endless obstacle race for the Australian trucking industry, with the obstacles becoming higher and more complicated at every turn.

These obstacles have included Covid-19, AdBlue supply issues and driver shortages.

Any one of these issues could have brought the industry to its knees but the Australian trucking industry has tackled each one with courage and a determination to keep the country moving.

There’s no doubt these issues are taking their toll on truck drivers and trucking operators.

Covid-19 alone has brought countless challenges, including driver shortages, the onerous burden of rolling seven day PCR tests, the scarcity and expense of rapid antigen tests (RATs) and border closures.

And while the federal government assures us Australia has adequate supply of AdBlue we know the steep price hike has dramatically escalated the cost of keeping a modern diesel fleet on the road.

We know how tough it’s been for the industry and we commend Australia’s truck drivers and trucking operators for their strength and resilience.

One of the questions our members are asking is whether the Covid, AdBlue or driver shortage issues could have been handled better by our federal and state governments. The short answer is yes.

The longer answer is still yes. We believe the recent handling of the Covid-19 pandemic has been a shambles. The confusion over PCR and RATs has caused unnecessary anxiety for an industry that’s already stretched.

The federal government was warned in September 2021 that RATs were required and yet it appears there was little to no effort to secure sufficient supply.

State governments were trying to enforce unworkable rolling seven-day PCR testing for truck drivers and when that was finally (and thankfully scrapped), drivers were urged to get RATs. Which would have been fine except for the scarcity and expense of RATs in Australia.

And then as the Omicron variant swept across Australia, the already serious shortage of truck drivers swiftly became a crisis. News websites and social media featured photo after photo of empty supermarket shelves and it quickly became apparent to Australians that the supply chain was in peril.

The AdBlue supply issue also teetered on the edge of becoming a national crisis, with the very real threat of the vital additive running out before Christmas. The crisis was narrowly averted thanks to intense lobbying by the ATA and our member associations as well as some other industry groups.

We commend the federal government for moving to head off the crisis but believe the situation needn’t have got to that point if the government had heeded our warnings earlier in 2021.

The ATA has been speaking to both the federal and state governments on a very regular basis, advocating for our members and the trucking industry as a whole. We are reporting the issues brought up by our members. We are promoting potential solutions.

We believe our industry and all Australians are looking for strong leadership and wise, strategic and swift decision making.

At the ATA, we are committed to meeting these expectations and call on our federal and state politicians to show the same commitment.

It is time to lead, make strong decisions and to act.

David Smith is the managing director of D&S Smith Haulage and chair of the Australian Trucking Association. 

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