Let’s rebound bigger and better in 2021

After the roller coaster year that was 2020, I hope this first issue of Prime Mover finds you back at work rested and reinvigorated, and that you found time to reconnect with family and friends after months of COVID-inspired restrictions and lockdowns.

If any industry earned a well-deserved break, it was transport after a year where we worked harder than ever to keep pace with record demand, and inspire confidence from consumers with legitimate concerns about supply shortages and not having ready access to the things they have grown accustomed to having.

Whilst the year was busier than ever for many operators, for others it was one of disruption and turmoil – especially for those that serviced parts of our economy that experienced forced closures and restrictions on trade.

The good news is that our state and national economies are well on the road to recovery.

After our first quarter of recession and negative growth in 30 years, restrictions in our hardest hit state of Victoria significantly easing, a busy Christmas trading period, and vaccines progressively being rolled out around the world, are pointing to what we all hope will be a quicker recovery that was predicted when COVID hit last year.

A key reason the transport industry survived 2020 better than any other sector was the way we all worked together to quickly adapt, solve problems, and keep our people safe and supply chains functional.

The state-based industry groups worked hard to advocate for legislation and regulation that recognised despite having eight different states and territories, freight and logistics is a national and international business, and that we therefore need systems and practices that would not impede the movement of goods to keep state and local economies going.

We worked closely and effectively to encourage state governments, who had self-interest as a priority to keep constituents safe, to keep their borders open to transport, and that where travel conditions were necessary they were as simple as possible to integrate into business practices and day-to-day operations.

This attitude of working for the common good is one that the VTA and our state-based affiliates will continue to push in 2021 as we act for the best interests of our members and the industry we service.

Already this year the state associations have convened in person in Brisbane late last month to discuss a range of issues, with road user charges at the forefront of our agenda.

Last May, the Commonwealth – with the backing of the transport industry – rightly decided not to proceed with a proposed increase to the road user charge, which spared thousands of transport operators around Australia with higher taxes on fuel.

It was a commonsense decision which relieved pressure on transport operators that had already been hit hard by the economic impacts of COVID-19 on the industry and the broader economy.

As an industry, we will continue to advocate for any increases to be as minimal as possible, especially in the context of uncertainty in our recovery at this very fragile time when JobKeeper and other state and Commonwealth financial relief measures are coming to an end.

Savvy operators will know and understand we are in a very pivotal stage of recovery and will do their best to run profitable businesses that service their customers well.

It’s an important time to be mindful of cashflow and for businesses not to extend themselves beyond the limitations of their balance sheets.

That said, for businesses that are suitably positioned, now is a terrific time to invest in your businesses, with record low interest rates and tax incentives like the instant asset write-off extended until the end of the year to make purchasing new equipment a sensible investment.

These are some of the themes we will cover in our 2021 State Conference at Philip Island from March 14-16 which we are all looking forward to as the VTA’s first in-person event since last March.

The conference will have as its major focus running business to make a profit, with speakers from industry, government, regulators and other stakeholders to help delegates best position themselves to rebound bigger and better in 2021.

I hope to see you there.

Peter Anderson