From the CEO: The best laid plan needs to include advice from a viable road transport industry

Read time: 2 mins

By Warren Clark

Originally Published in Big Rigs Friday October 27

Renowned American businessman Jack Welch once said: “Strategy is actually very straightforward. You pick a general direction and implement like hell.”

Of course, coming up with a National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy that sign-posts the way forward for road transport in Australia isn’t as simple as that.

But the general principle applies.

That’s why NatRoad has called for a re-calibration of the forthcoming Strategy so it has a stronger focus on delivering outcomes.

Take it back to basic, achievable goals…and implement like hell.

We recently told the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts in a submission that its needs to recognise that financially viable road freight operators are critical to success of the strategy.

All those decarbonisation, innovation, productivity and safety outcomes won’t be achieved without a financially viable industry to drive investment.

While the 2019 National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy has given our country national strategic direction for improving our freight and supply chains, its success ultimately comes down to the decisions of state and territory governments.

It’s time for a re-set and to hold all governments to account.

A good place to start is governance.

Which is a fancy word for describing how decisions are made.

There is Industry representation on the panel advising governments about the Strategy there’s room for more direct industry-led representation, including by groups like NatRoad.

The existing members of the industry panel are undoubtedly experts in their own fields, but the expertise does not include a strong focus on either small businesses or employees.

In contrast, the 30 August 2023 ministerial roundtable held about the review of the strategy included broader representation, including industry representatives selected by and accountable to industry, so we live in hope of change.

Taking stock of the process, the next five-year action plan will take us to the eve of the 2030s. It should have these objectives in its sights:

The new Heavy Vehicle National Law should be legislated and operational.

Major decarbonisation pathways should be cost effective for road transport businesses.

The road network should be funded to achieve system-wide outcomes of improving safety, productivity, sustainability and connectivity.

The proposed National Service Level Standards Framework (NSLSF) for Roads should be operational and guiding investment decisions by no later than 2025, ensuring a fair go for all Australians.

A whole range of non-legislative reforms to improve heavy vehicle access – as suggested by the Kanofski Review – should be implemented and operational.

Technology adoption has to be managed properly.

The focus of connected and automated vehicles should be to improve safety, productivity and increasing job choice through new career pathways.

And all state, territory and local governments should have published freight plans which align with the national strategy and the national urban freight planning principles.