Em­brac­ing tech­nol­ogy

The fu­ture of trans­port tech­nol­ogy was one of many hot top­ics dur­ing the re­cent NatRoad con­fer­ence

Owner Driver - - Natroad - War­ren Clark

TECH­NO­LOG­I­CAL AD­VANCE­MENTS and dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion emerged as a key theme at this year’s NatRoad Con­fer­ence, with safety, fa­tigue tech­nol­ogy, and au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles dom­i­nat­ing the dis­cus­sions. In a re­cent sub­mis­sion made to a Queens­land Par­lia­men­tary in­quiry, we in­di­cated that in the next 20 years the ad­vances in tech­nol­ogy and data avail­abil­ity will be a ma­jor driver of pro­duc­tiv­ity growth in the freight sec­tor in ar­eas such as au­to­ma­tion, data pro­cesses, and prod­uct de­liv­ery. These in­clude the use of au­to­mated ve­hi­cles, teleme­try, drones, and big data, sup­ported by in­ter­na­tional data stan­dards.

How­ever, much of the tech­nol­ogy depends on im­proved in­fra­struc­ture. There are, for ex­am­ple, sev­eral bar­ri­ers to adop­tion of al­ter­na­tively fu­elled ve­hi­cles, not the least of which for elec­tric ve­hi­cles is the lack of in­fra­struc­ture es­pe­cially for long haul ve­hi­cles and the cur­rent and pro­jected length of ‘down time’ for re-charg­ing.

In ad­di­tion, many of the ad­vanced tech­nolo­gies and sys­tems be­ing adopted in over­seas mar­kets are yet to be­come avail­able in this coun­try. This ap­plies in many ar­eas of tech­nol­ogy be­cause of adap­ta­tion costs for Aus­tralia’s rel­a­tively small mar­ket and higher prices for on-road ve­hi­cles. The pace of change is very much go­ing to de­pend on the rate at which the tech­nol­ogy can be tested for unique Aus­tralian con­di­tions.

The in­quiry is also ex­am­in­ing the ef­fects of tech­nol­ogy on em­ploy­ment in trans­port. There is a sig­nif­i­cant amount of anx­i­ety among smaller op­er­a­tors that the in­tro­duc­tion of au­to­mated heavy ve­hi­cles will put mem­bers out of work. The im­pact on jobs in the trans­port in­dus­try must be con­sid­ered in any pol­icy re­lat­ing to the in­tro­duc­tion of au­to­mated heavy ve­hi­cles.

Gov­ern­ments must work with the in­dus­try on the is­sue of how jobs are ex­pected to tran­si­tion in an au­to­mated en­vi­ron­ment. Yet, iron­i­cally, one of the im­me­di­ate con­straints on growth that mem­bers have re­ported to NatRoad is the de­clin­ing num­ber of skilled work­ers in the in­dus­try, par­tic­u­larly truck driv­ers. We aim to ad­dress this skills short­age prob­lem with our Fu­ture-Ready project in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Pac­car and the Pac­car dealer net­work.


Tech­nol­ogy is also pro­vid­ing fresh op­por­tu­ni­ties; al­low­ing us to work smarter and safer. In ex­am­in­ing the im­pact of tech­nol­ogy on em­ploy­ment and safety, NatRoad is of the view that the in­quiry should re­ject ar­gu­ments that any in­dus­try par­tic­i­pants are pro­tected by safe rates, a con­cept which one of the in­quiry’s terms of ref­er­ence seems to en­com­pass. The so-called ‘safe rates’ model is dis­cred­ited. We op­pose leg­is­lat­ing rates for owner-op­er­a­tors or any other con­trac­tor now or in the fu­ture: that step cre­ates mar­ket dis­tor­tions and adds to the stress of the peo­ple it aims to help.

Ve­hi­cle track­ing has also made mon­i­tor­ing driver be­hav­iour eas­ier. With the new chain of re­spon­si­bil­ity du­ties un­der the Heavy Ve­hi­cle Na­tional Law in­tro­duced from Oc­to­ber 1, busi­nesses need to as­sess whether the time is right now for em­brac­ing new tech­nol­ogy.

WAR­REN CLARK, NatRoad’s chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, has more than 20 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence lead­ing and de­vel­op­ing busi­ness for emerg­ing com­pa­nies. War­ren has held the po­si­tion of CEO at var­i­ous com­pa­nies and is a cer­ti­fied char­tered ac­coun­tant.

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