Chris has over 24 years of solid experience in the management of industry associations at a variety of levels. Prior to joining NatRoad on 28 November last year, he ran his own professional consultancy, providing industry bodies with a range of services including advocacy, secretariat support, relationship building and representation to government.
Chris has held a number of senior leadership positions including Chief Executive Officer and Company Secretary of the Australian Seed Federation, General Manager – Burdekin Region for the Australian Canegrowers Association, Executive Officer of the NSW Farmers Association and Executive Officer of the NSW Meat Industry Authority.
In those roles he had plenty of exposure to the road transport sector from a customer level, noting he was well aware that if transport stopped so did every industry in the country and while trucking was not a core focus of his business activities, Chris is taking a keen interest in every aspect of what keeps the wheels of the trucking industry turning.
“It has been a common theme of mine to create more streamlined regulatory processes in industry to assist companies do business. There is always a need to cut red tape at local, state and federal levels and road transport is no different to any other industry in that regard,” Chris says plainly.
“The last mile access issue is just one example of this and it is my intention to address problem areas where road transport operators face obstacles as they go about doing their vital work for Australian communities and the economy.”
But he is the first to admit his knowledge of the trucking industry needs expansion and from the onset he has taken every opportunity to become as actively involved as possible, working closely with NatRoad President Geoff Crouch and the board of directors.
“I am very lucky to have such knowledgeable people around me, President Geoff Crouch and all of those on the board are very professional and informed persons with a wealth of experience in the trucking industry, and to date they have assisted me in many areas,” Chris says.
One of the first items on his agenda was to form relationships with NatRoad sponsors including a visit to the Kenworth plant at Bayswater in Melbourne, and he has attended a number of industry meetings and functions to become united with those around him who share a common goal to improve road transport in this country.
“It is my aim to work closely with the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) and ensure our business is complimentary to achieve objectives and gain outcomes leading to the success of our members in their various applications,” he says.
Chris points out that NatRoad is a very valuable industry association and he intends to expand the membership, encouraging road transport operators to become involved.
“I want to broaden the relationships within the industry to expand both scope and coverage. One of my objectives is to put in place a productivity plan for the next 20 years to benefit all operators and industry customers.
“All eyes are on the Federal and State Governments to roll out the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator in 2013 and one of my roles is to work to prevent it becoming another red tape nightmare, after all road transport is the backbone of the economy,” he says.
Chris indicates he is blown away by the quality assurance that resides within the industry, with first class systems and a strong customer focus.
Through programs like TruckSafe the industry demonstrates it is committed to road safety and driver health. Many other industries do not have accountable systems in place but road transport certainly has,” he says.
He was exposed to road safety ideals when he travelled as a passenger in a B-double from Canberra to Grafton in Northern New South Wales. Travelling with ATA CEO Stuart St Clair, Chris was exposed to driver behaviour on the highway in a constant stream of trucks in both directions.
He also gained valuable information on differing truck combinations and transport applications during the return journey and was impressed by truck driver courtesy with all road users.
“One thing that is clearly evident is that the perception truck drivers and operators are bad does not exist in rural and regional areas as they are totally dependent on trucks, and we need to get that message across to their city counterparts.
“The journey was an invaluable lesson for me,” he says. “I am acutely aware you cannot learn from behind a desk and the opportunity to travel by truck provided a valuable insight to what goes on at the coal face.
“I am a good listener and will continue to learn as I remain focussed on industry outcomes. I will bring new ideas to the table and put them forward.”
During his time on the road, Chris Melham met with NatRoad members Jim Pearson of Jim Pearson Transport, Port Macquarie and the Blanchard family at Herb Blanchard Haulage in Grafton. He was given an insight into how both companies operated and was made aware of both common and individual issues affecting their businesses.
Chris has exhibited a genuine desire to become an integral part of Australia’s trucking scene and he is not sitting on the sidelines observing, rather he has waded into the waters, boots and all. Look for him on a highway or transport depot near you.