A sense of in­evitabil­ity

Australian Transport News - - Contents -

The in­dus­try’s weak­ness is on show and hun­ters are cir­cling

And so it be­gins. It only took a mat­ter of months for the ‘ in­fra­struc­ture sur­charge’, which those cun­ning steve­dores de­cided con­tainer haulage firms would have to pay to do their jobs, pro­lif­er­ated.

Now two other fi rms, Price & Speed and ANJ Con­tainer Ser­vices, both rel­a­tive min­nows com­pared with Qube’s steve­dor­ing sub­sidiary Pa­trick and steve­dore DP World, have joined what could well be a feed­ing frenzy.

Any­one in the truck­ing in­dus­try still won­der­ing why ATN has taken such a keen in­ter­est in the con­tainer haulage sec­tor’s re­cent tra­vails should take time to mull over the im­pli­ca­tions here.

They should con­sider the is­sue as on a par with state gov­ern­ments sin­gling truck­ing out for spe­cial costs treat­ment for new road in­fra­struc­ture aimed pri­mar­ily at the myr­iad of vot­ing mo­torists who the politi­cians and bu­reau­crat in­fra­struc­ture plan­ners have failed so com­pre­hen­sively over the decades.

They failed to lead and they failed to plan and they were re­warded in their fail­ure and sub­se­quent re­tire­ments.

Now the fi nan­cially bit­ter fruits of that fail­ure are ripen­ing into an in­jec­tion of more costs into the sup­ply chain that must some­how be passed on down the line.

Some tell ATN that this sort of thing ac­tu­ally makes the job of do­ing so eas­ier, as pub­lic knowl­edge makes the cause of the in­creased costs that much more ob­vi­ous and trans­par­ent.

The hope here is that it will be passed down the line to the con­sumers (aren’t we all?) who are be­ing screwed al­most as much as the haulage fi rms that are the re­luc­tant bear­ers of the ex­tra costs.

This is lit­tle short of a con­spir­acy against them by govern­ment, fi nanciers and cer­tain busi­nesses.

For the truck­ing fi rms, it’s a dou­ble whammy in that, along with hav­ing to swal­low such por­tions that they can’t pass on, they have the bur­den of pro­cess­ing the charges where they can.

So far, de­spite en­er­getic at­tempts by un­der-pow­ered state rep­re­sen­ta­tive bod­ies and out­gunned sup­ply chain

ser­vices ac­tors, those bear­ing the brunt have been po­lit­i­cally friend­less.

Tougher still, the in­dus­try’s im­po­tence, born of a lack of co­he­sion and dis­ci­pline due in no small part to its in­her­ent struc­ture and va­ri­ety, is be­ing put into sharp re­lief. This can only be en­cour­age­ment to any­player that wishes to take ad­van­tage.

Æsop has a fa­ble about this sort of thing that ’s worth dwelling on.

A lion used to prowl about a field in which four oxen used to dwell. Many a time he tried to at­tack them; but when­ever he came near they turned their tails to one another, so that which­ever way he ap­proached them he was met by the horns of one of them. At last, how­ever, they fell a-quar­relling among them­selves, and each went offto pas­ture alone in a sep­a­rate corner of the field. Then the lion at­tacked them one by one and soon made an end of all four.

“They failed to lead and they failed to plan and they were re­warded in their fail­ure”

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