From the CEO: Identifying the red tape addiction is the first step to beating it

Read time: 3 mins

By Warren Clark

Originally Published in Big Rigs Friday October 13, 2023

Regardless of whether you’re an owner operator working for yourself or the boss of a company running a dozen trucks, you must have noticed the increasing volume of red tape affecting everything you do.

It’s not just in road transport but across every sector, and it didn’t just coincide with the arrival of COVID-19 (although anyone operating across state or territory borders at the time did see a skyrocketing increase.) 

Red tape has been creeping into every area of business – and it’s sucking the life out of productivity.

In their 2020 book “Humanocracy”, researchers Professor Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini identified this trend and made an argument for replacing bureaucracy with “something better”.

The pair define a “humanocracy” as an organisation that is “designed to maximize human contribution”, and their book lays out a blueprint for creating companies that are “as inspired and ingenious as the human beings inside them”.

A one-man (or woman) band, or a family business in road transport might struggle to see the relevance, and the authors aren’t suggesting you can re-invent your operation by putting everybody in charge.

But listening closely to suggestions from employees and customers alike never hurts anyone.

Some decisions do lend themselves to being more consultative – and that can apply to customers.

NatRoad has advocated that consultation is a “must do” in times of increasing overheads and tightening margins. Businesses need to pass on increased costs to customers where contracts allow – and that starts with explaining the reasons why.

It almost goes without saying that taking a good hard critical look at what we spend our time doing and eliminating those things that aren’t productive is an essential thing in business.

But we are a regulated industry where there are rules that must be followed.

Most of them are in place to ensure safety – and nobody is arguing with them.

A good example of getting the balance right is the recent news that the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator will update its White List application process for operators whose fleets travel through NSW and South Australia.

The White List names operators who have successfully applied for exclusion from some low risk fatigue-related National Camera Network incidents due to their good fatigue management practices, accreditation and compliance history.

It’s routinely reviewed. The Regulator has changes to its reporting requirements that it says are designed to cut red tape while not compromising safety.

Sounds like a win-win and a reminder that working smarter does not involve cutting corners.

Sometimes the war against petty red tape seems endless.

It’s only two years since there was a ban on farmers pre-applying for a permit to move livestock using a commercial carrier.

That little piece of red tape meant that a transport operator could face a requirement to apply for their own permit before moving the livestock – a process that could take as long as 28 days.

Too bad if fluctuating markets or unforeseen weather events changed a farmer’s plans.

The Federal Government changed that one with the stroke of a pen.

But the biggest issue (and it’s mostly on the enforcement side) is a mindset that a driver is deliberately out to deceive when they make a clerical error in a work diary.

Electronic Work Diaries actually make it harder for police to push the envelope but are regulators doing enough to overcome the trust issues that limit the up-take of this technology?

I think not.

The time is right to consider the appointment of a Red Tape Tsar with the power to report directly to national transport ministers about regulations are hindering productivity. Make the Tsar the first port-of-call for organisations like NatRoad to name and shame unnecessary regulations that aren’t there for safety’s sake is one way to get our industry moving the way it should.