VTA CEO Peter Anderson with MTAG secretary Martin Wurt in front of a Euro 5 prime mover.
VTA CEO Peter Anderson with MTAG secretary Martin Wurt in front of a Euro 5 prime mover.

COVID-19 frames vitality of supply chains

IF coronavirus has crystallised anything for Australian consumers it is the importance of safe, efficient and seamless supply chains to our way of life.

Questions over where our goods come from were once rarely asked, but as the pandemic took hold and the availability of goods were curtailed, consumers rightly started to ask.

The supply chains that service our broader community have been developing and improving for years.

We now have over 40 different sectors in the road freight industry that see over 40 million tonnes of products move through our community every year.

These sectors have enjoyed transformational gains in efficiency, productivity and safety, and we continually look for further improvements.

Some of the tensions stem back to the battle between industry productivity and community amenity. Lines are blurred when looking to decide who should get the advantages of specific decisions, such as the placement of curfews or clearways.

Loads must get through, and invariably heavy vehicles discriminated against by these decisions seek out the next more efficient route, often in another municipality, starting the cycle again elsewhere.

Short sighted demands of locals to ban access to heavy vehicles do nothing to address problems the transport industry faces. Ironically, when these supply chains stop there are demands by other residents to ease restrictions.

Solutions exist to this conundrum and the answers lie firmly with a change in dialogue and the pathway upon which industry and community can work together.

The VTA demonstrated solutions are possible through the development of the Cleaner Freight Initiative with the anti-truck lobby group the MTA).

We found common ground with a former adversary by better managing trucks in the community based upon attainment of community amenity needs and productivity improvements.

Although bureaucratic bungling meant this solution couldn’t be implemented it has shown that efficient supply chains are important and that heavy vehicles are an essential element of our community.

In Victoria, Freight Victoria now has the remit to improve the supply chain efficiencies, productivity and safety. It is charged with implementing the current ‘Delivering the Goods’ freight plan and is accountable for recommendations in this document.

However, more can be done.

The Principle Freight Network (PFN) needs to be delineated, improved and implemented to ensure dedicated roads are always available for trucks to get through. Technology that continues to be introduced into heavy vehicles is groundbreaking compared to other industries, and rates and prices have never been so low. We still need to understand that training our people, defining access pathways and investing in infrastructure are the stepping stones to a free-flowing sustainable industry.

Like many, the VTA was sad to learn that this will be the final edition of Big Rigs.

The publication has served the industry with distinction, helping to amplify issues of significance to operators and industry groups, and it will be sorely missed. We extend our very best wishes and thanks to editor James Graham and all the staff at Big Rigs for their support over many years.

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