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Revered certifier, 70, still fighting to untangle industry red tape

THINK OF a catchy popular saying and you can probably apply it to Phillip Hodges.

“From little things, big things grow”, you might say, quoting the chorus line from a popular Kev Carmody song or “an overnight success story 25 years in the making” might spring to mind and both will be right.

Hodges is the founder of Melbourne-based Transport Certification Services, a business specialising in the certification of heavy trucks and trailers, buses, light commercial vehicles, emergency services vehicles and passenger cars for the disabled.

He started the business from scratch in 1998 after being on the wrong side of the line when his former employer downsized, building it from scratch to be an industry leader.

“It was just me when I started but I kept at it and now the business is big, with six engineers,” he said.

Hodges’ efforts and contribution to the Australian road transport industry were formally recognised at the recent National Trucking Industry Awards on Queensland’s Gold Coast where he was awarded for the Outstanding Contribution to the Australian Trucking Industry.

“I was quite surprised by it, especially with the people I was up against. Just being nominated was enough. It’s a very significant award and I was a bit emotional about it,” he said.

“I look at it this way: there were about a thousand people at the awards and at least 800 of them were worthy of winning it,” he added modestly.

It was reward for effort, 70-year-old Hodges receiving the acknowledgement due for the risk and effort put into getting Transport Certification Services not just up and running but blossoming to the point where it now boasts a multitude of clients both nationally and globally.

It is, he says, expert work and while he did nothing different to other engineers he had two important aces up his sleeve. One was his focus on customer service and the other was problem solving, finding engineering solutions.

Those attracted a wide range of clients with names like Hino, UD, Daimler and Fuso knocking on his door. Even North American company Oshkosh asked for his assistance with the development of its fire tenders for use at Australian airports and with our military.

“We do second-stage manufacturing and we work with people from all around the world – Thailand, New Zealand, Europe, the UK and the US,” he said.

“We’re also working with the NHVR, trying to get the national Authorised Vehicle Examiner scheme up and running.”

Hodges, who entered the industry in 1984, has seen a lot of change in the almost-40 years he has been associated with it, one of the biggest being the establishment of the NHVR as the independent regulator for all vehicles with a GVM greater than 4.5 tonnes.

He has also noted the “big changes” in the Dangerous Goods Code standards.

“Really, truck technology has come a long way; it’s constantly changing. I’m very interested in platooning technology (and) I think that has a real future.”

‘Platooning’ is the electronic linking of two or more trucks in convoy using connectivity technology and automated driving support systems to automatically maintain a set distance on the road.

In fact, it is the “big changes” in technology that are piquing Hodges’ interest right now.

“You just can’t easily cut a vehicle up any more (to change it). It’s got ABS, traction control and all that sort of stuff on it – it’s a very different game these days.”

And, he says, despite being semi-retired, he is still working on increasing Australian vehicle width limits from 2.5-metres to 2.6-metres, suggesting: “we’ve still got a bit of work to do with the Department of Industry in that area.”

At a grass-roots level the trucking industry seems to be constantly battling red tape and while some might suggest that Hodges and those responsible for formulating the rules might be responsible for the amount of oversight it is a notion he rejects.

“We (Transport Certification Services) and people like us, the Australian Trucking Industry, have always campaigned against the amount of red tape in the road transport industry.

“We believe there is far too much and we’re opposed to it. I think government departments need to run like private industry, like businesses, and get things done quickly and efficiently.”

[l-r] TCS engineers Lavan Manila and Vedran Lerman with business owner Jarrod Thompson and founder Phillip Hodges.
Now? Phill Hodges has paid his dues many times over. While most of us were kicking-back and enjoying our downtime he was the bloke beavering away at midnight to get jobs finished and issues sorted.

Hodges sold Transport Certification Services to long-term employee Jarod Thompson and his partner Christine seven years ago, staying-on in an advisory capacity.

Like Hodges, Jarrod is an engineer and NHVR examiner. Christine is involved with the future planning, event management and HR roles as well as the day-to-day running of the business.

“I hope I’ve left a legacy. Certainly I built a good business and it is continuing to grow under Jarrod and Christine. I’m 70 now so I’m easing back a bit but I want to stay involved in the industry.”

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