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Prime Mover Magazine

ATA conference warns of imminent logistics revolution

Day one of Trucking Australia 2017 highlighted the increasing pressure commercial road transport is facing from megatrends such as urbanisation, automation and digitisation.

Held in Darwin, the Australian Trucking Association’s (ATA) annual industry gathering put the focus on the disruptive potential of future technologies and re-emphasised the need for industry to develop new strategies to manage change.

“Change is the new constant,” ATA CEO, Ben Maguire, told the audience in opening the highly anticipated event. “We are facing a time of change as an industry, but we need to remind ourselves that challenges also present new opportunities for growth as we embrace them.”

ATA Chair, Geoff Crouch, thus called upon industry to develop a ‘sense of urgency’ to ensure it won’t be left behind as business models and technologies evolve.

“Road transport is not immune to technological change,” he warned. “As an industry, we need to get ready for future challenges, and we need to get ready now.

“It’s not a question of if autonomous trucks arrive, but when. We can’t stick our heads in the sand like the taxi industry did when Uber came along.”

Crouch put the onus of leading the discussion back on the ATA, saying the Association had to “pivot even more towards understanding the megatrends facing the industry” and provide more guidance on how to navigate them.

Prime Mover columnist and head of Ferrier Hodgson’s logistics practice, Brendan Richards, underscored the urgency of developing new change management strategies, saying the ongoing growth of the nation’s freight task will be “skewed towards new technology” – especially with global e-commerce giant, Amazon, now breaking into the local market. 

“The Australian economy is well positioned for future growth,” he said, referring to Ferrier Hodgson's recently published 'Transport 2050' report. “But the logistics network behind it will change dramatically, with whole new modes of transport emerging right under our nose.”

Both Richards and Michelle Hendy, Chief Planning Officer at the National Transport Commission (NTC), pointed out that collaboration will be key to handling future challenges, with Trucking Australia 2017 a first step towards a broad-based and inclusive change management strategy. “We need to find a common language,” Hendy said, adding that prescriptive regulations may provide barriers to innovation as technologies change and processes evolve.

Leadership coach, Anneli Blundell, also highlighted the subsequent cultural changes industry will have to face, saying industry has to “widen the lens” to ensure it has the systems and processes in place to handle change and attract the right people. “We need to think outside the square,” she said with view to the workforce of the future, pointing especially to the value women can add to the industry. “Companies that build cultures around diversity will be left standing at the end.”

Industry icon, Roger Pickering, echoed that sentiment as part of the Kenworth ‘Legends Lunch’, adding that change management has to draw on experience and take into account the lessons learned in the past.

"Most people want to be loved and want to belong. I think that's part of the driver shortage issue – the lack of personal contact we have in the age we live in today,” he said with view to recruitment.

“A simple "thanks, you've done a good job" is still as vital as it's always been, but we're losing touch because we believe we know everything by looking at a screen. Business is not just about numbers, it's about people too – in any industry."

Truckign Australia 2017 is currently being held in Darwin, NT.

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