Freeing up freight critical to recovery
THE COVID-19 CRISIS HAS PRESENTED the Road Transport Forum with some substantial challenges over the past two to three months. None of these, of course, can compete with the challenges faced by our members and those within the wider industry that have been struggling to keep transport businesses going in a period of significantly reduced demand.
One of our biggest tasks has been convincing the Government to take a pragmatic approach to the treatment of non-essential freight. Initially a confusing matrix of advice meant that businesses were told they could receive and unpack non-essential goods….then they were told they couldn’t. And finally it was confirmed that they could.
This created a huge amount of uncertainty right across the economy and it was frustrating to have to go through the process of explaining to Government officials and ministers just how difficult it was from our industry’s point of view to operate just with essential freight.
The supply chain, we argued, only works if all the links of that chain remain intact: Try to remove non-essential freight and the whole supply chain will break down, creating bottlenecks that will inevitably lead to essential freight being held up also. Keeping the supply chain intact also meant that businesses who received that freight were in a much better
position to open to customers as we moved down through the alert levels.
RTF also undertook an extensive amount of work with New Zealand Transport Agency officials on gaining relief for operators around compliance and technical issues. We are particularly pleased that trucks and trailers that are in a safe condition will be able to operate without a valid CoF and won’t be subject to CoF inspection until October 10, 2020.
However, we do advise operators to have their CoF inspections carried out at their earliest opportunity to avoid the high demand for inspections as inspectors deal with the anticipated backlog.
Where we didn’t have so much success was in requesting the Government reduce RUCs during the Level 4 and Level 3 lockdowns. We strongly made the point that this was an overhead that, if alleviated, could be very beneficial to many operators during what are very tough times.
However, Minister of Transport Phil Twyford cited the other forms of assistance being provided to businesses and the loss of RUC revenue to the National Land Transport Fund as reasons why the Government did not support this proposal.
I must say, through this crisis I have been pretty disappointed with many in our news media and commentariat who have prevented much-needed debate over the Government’s response to COVID-19.
We can be thankful that in many respects our Government was quick to act and when it did it made some decisive decisions that may well have saved NZ from the fate of some of the more badly-affected countries around the world. However, that does not mean that they have got everything right – and nor would one expect them to.
Opposition and dissension are actually extremely important parts of the democratic process and can play a very constructive role in highlighting areas of neglect and parts of the Government’s response that need improvement.
Unfortunately, we have developed a mainstream culture so sycophantic to the current administration that opposition to decisions has, more often than not, been shouted-down and in many cases ridiculed.
The fact is there are important questions that need answering, and you can be sure when it comes to the freight task and the future of our economy, that RTF will keep asking them.
Finally, I just want to promote an innovative programme recently developed by NZ Trade and Enterprise. It is an online marketplace for NZ businesses to match offers and requests for resources – for instance, those who have no work can get in touch with those who do….but are short of the workers to necessarily do it.
It’s a good idea and covers the freight sector, so if you think that could be useful to you, go to nz-marketplace.nzte.govt. nz
HUNDREDS OF OPERATORS AROUND THE country have contributed to an extremely important workforce survey recently carried out by RTF. “The survey was begun just before the COVID-19 lockdown and, while the timing was not exactly ideal, it was really important that we pushed through and completed the process,” says RTF’s Nick Leggett.
“I really want to thank those operators who, in an extremely stressful period, took some time out of their day to complete the survey and contribute such valuable information.
“The data is being used to demonstrate to Government the extent of the workforce issues within our sector and will help guide solutions that the industry looks to put in place and any assistance we may get from Government to do this.”
RTF is encouraged that a high proportion of survey respondents declared an interest in participating in an industry cadetship. Over the last couple of months quite a bit of work has been done with MITO on the design of the proposed scheme.
“The objective is for the cadetship to be flexible, so that it is relevant to the variety of career pathways employees may seek to follow in our industry,” says Leggett.
“This includes having multiple entry and exit points within the scheme.” The cadetship will broadly comprise three stages: Foundation skills, technical skills and business skills. The Level 3 Commercial Road Transport Skills programme is seen as a foundation entry qualification for most people to enter the cadetship scheme.
Says Leggett: “We are looking at holding one or two application rounds to enter the scheme each year. This will include an online application form to be completed by the trainee applicants and their managers.
“Applicants will then be shortlisted, with an interview conducted by
RTF and MITO personnel. Successful applicants will be inducted into the traineeship at a series of regional functions.”
The training itself will be mostly facilitated in the workplace, with MITOapproved company assessors providing the on-job practical training, overseeing the theory learning and setting the training standard.
Theory work, including videos, interactive simulations and online theory assessments, will be completed via eLearning. Realtime results and progress reports will be available, through MITO’s online portal, to both the workplace superviser and the trainee.
“Importantly, trainees will be guaranteed a minimum of 40 hours per week of work, at or above the living wage,” says Leggett.
“The intention is also to set up a system of mentors who can support the trainee through the programme and complement the on-job learning support that the learner already receives.”
Experienced industry mentor advisers will help learners through technical components of the programme that they are struggling with. Company mentors will provide trainees with a senior company person to turn to for advice and support. This could be their superviser, workplace assessor or another senior employee.
Iwi mentors will be available in some regions to work alongside the company mentors and industry mentor advisers, to provide additional pastoral support with an iwi focus.
“While it can be difficult in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis to focus too far into the future, it is important that we take proactive steps to mitigate the serious longterm workforce issues in our sector,” says Leggett.
“This scheme, I believe, can play its part in doing that, but it will be up to operators to get on board.”
More information on the road freight cadetship will be made available to industry in due course.
The supply chain only works if all the links in the chain remain intact
by Nick Leggett Chief Executive Road Transport Forum NZ
RTF has been working with Janet Lane’s team at MITO to develop the Road Freight Traineeship