A cracking end to last year sets up an intriguing start to this one
Anew year and another opportunity to look forward with optimism at the months ahead. Any year with a Brisbane Truck Show in it can’t be too bad, after all. Part of the charm of this period is trying to work out just how things are going to unfold after the serious intrigue of the few months before last year ended.
At least some of them relates to a part of the magazine that may not usually get much of a mention on this page – Executive Appointments.
Sitting high on the “didn’t see that coming but it has a certain logic” graph is the elevations to the top jobs at Toll Holdings of Michael Byrne and John Mullen.
Asked to name two of the most senior and seasoned transport and logistics executives of past 10 years, an industry observer would struggle to avoid putting them in the frame.
If that relationship works, the company will become an even greater force in the industry locally and its foreign forays will be watched extremely closely.
It would seem the work of present managing director Brian Kruger there is done. His watch coincided with a need to rationalise the company’s development during Paul Little’s long reign, and, as a sponsor of the Essendon Football Club, it will be appreciated that following up long reigns present a challenge that demand a special approach, especially when business and economic circumstances have changed.
Setting up a succession like this takes months, so it would be a huge stretch to read into it anything to do with Toll’s huge SafeWork Victoria fine and the timing was seriously unfortunate. But it does put Byrne’s safety promotion and improvement credentials into sharp relief.
As Linfox Logistics boss, Byrne was very strong on safety matters in conversation with ATN and not averse to critiquing other companies on their public commitments to that central cause.
With so many moving parts, squeezing more risk out of a wide-ranging enterprise that is already doing pretty well on that score will be some feat.
Meanwhile, government has its own challenges. It only takes a few things to go wrong for a system’s weaknesses to come to light, and so it is with truck-driver training.
This column was once guilty of a minor flippancy on the likely efficacy of Senator Glen Sterle’s Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee elsewhere. But that body is illuminating the lack of coordination between authorities – federal and state and state and state – that oversee this crucial function and must be commended for it.
The turn of New South Wales Roads and Maritime Services is likely next month to field pointed questions about what it did and didn’t know and what it did and didn’t do about scandals that have now affected the three biggest states.
The committee has been mindful of the difficulties posed by a lack of adequate funding to cover every aspect of regulatory oversight but, with an echo of the education debate, emphasises that there are aspects which more cash won’t cure. Lack of communication with other regulators is not a funding issue.
A manifestation of one of the scandals relates to foreign nationals gaining fraudulent driver accreditations and being exploited having done so. This is part of a malaise affecting other parts of the economy and, given many of the victims are foreigners, the committee is careful in treating it as an enforcement issue.
Also of interest this year will be what the National Transport Commission will make of enforcement and chain of responsibility (COR) issues.
Parts of the industry continue to make pointed reference to demands for conformity with the rules not being matched by consistency in the enforcement effort. The lack of respect for the authority of authorities is only bolstered every time an example arises.
The same goes for COR. In one of his final investigations for us, correspondent Steve Skinner shows in this edition that ignorance and non-conformity remain chronic outside the trucking head office and truck cab on matters of fatigue. We wish Steve all the best.
COR is a matter long due a public inquiry and review. Perhaps it could start in the Senate.
“Any year with a Brisbane Truck Show in it can’t be too bad, after all”