For­ward Vi­sion

A crack­ing end to last year sets up an in­trigu­ing start to this one

Australian Transport News - - Contents -

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”

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