Prime Mover Magazine

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Geoff Crouch

ATA looks to the future with new strategy

October 2017

With the rapid growth of technology, there’s understandably a lot of talk about the future. There are countless articles, government consultations and private sector projects looking at issues such as driverless vehicles, truck platooning, increasing automation and connectivity. But the future is shaped by actual decisions being implemented, not just being talked about.

Let’s consider the concept of driverless trucks platooning on a major highway for just a moment. Governments have a mixed record at best when it comes to increasing productivity and allowing the use of modern, safer, more productive trucks that are available on our roads right now.

The vehicles exist and are being used today. We know they are safer and more environmentally friendly, reduce the number of trucks required and increase productivity.

But regulation – and inconsistent regulation at that – is limiting road access and raising barriers to their use. Some in government even use statistics showing the growth in permits issued as a sign of policy success, rather than acknowledging that high numbers of permits illustrate high regulatory costs on business, the wider economy and, ultimately, Australian jobs.

The corridor between our two largest cities of Sydney and Melbourne is a key, busy and duplicated highway, but you can’t run a high-productivity vehicle on it. Yet governments talk a lot about the concept of driverless, platooning trucks – you have to wonder: which highway will they ever be allowed to operate on?

Even if the technology is one day delivered to market, and road access is allowed, it’s not hard to imagine that permission being dependent on ‘driverless’ and ‘platooning’ permits being required.

Failure to make the right decisions on productivity today could simply lead to the bans of tomorrow on trucks using driverless or platooning technology. New technology will not automatically solve the problems of today, especially if it’s buried under permits and regulation.

So the future is not just going to arrive, it will be shaped by actual decisions being implemented. Technology is not the goal, but it should be the means to the goal.
These goals must focus on outcomes of improving safety and increasing productivity, and not on which government agency can be the first to regulate whatever technology is to be introduced tomorrow.

As an industry, we can’t afford to sit out of the process of decisions being implemented, as trucking operators are key to Australian supply chains of today and tomorrow. It’s hard to see a drone or a train supplying the local supermarket.

As the peak body representing the trucking industry, the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) is uniquely placed to help shape this future for our industry. With member associations in all of Australia’s states and territories, and sector-based associations, the ATA gives a national voice to the issues and priorities of trucking operators.

In August, ATA members engaged in planning the strategy to take the ATA forward into the immediate and longer-term future. Our members will debate the strategy in the coming months before finalising it in November.

ATA member associations have already made it clear that we need to place improving productivity firmly on the agenda for the industry and governments. We need to improve safety outcomes, career pathways into the industry and our rural and regional supply chains, while lowering regulatory burdens.

If you want to have your say on shaping the decisions that will determine our industry’s future, then now is the time to get involved and join an ATA member association.

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