Prime Mover Magazine

Isuzu boss discusses economic challenges, change, industry adaptation

Multi-layered shock to both local and national economies following bushfires and droughts will bring even greater scrutiny to essential services following COVID-19 according to Isuzu Australia Limited Director and Chief Operating Officer Andrew Harbison.

The Isuzu boss issued a statement online discussing the challenges ahead of the industry and the demanding tasks that are set to confront the road transport and logistics sectors.

"It’s a very different world we wake up to since COVID-19 spread across international borders. Many of us have lived through times of moderation before, but nothing could prepare us for the widespread economic and social disruption of COVID-19," he said.

Treasury figures just issued anticipate Australia’s rate of unemployment will double to ten per cent as early as next month, triggering a recession. 

"Recently released IMF modeling suggests that under the influence of COVID-19, the global economy will be in recession for over four years, until 2024 or beyond," he said.

"During this crisis, essential services continue to provide not only the basic necessities for life, but have also become the buttress for stability against economic free fall. By default, industry that directly supports essential services will have a huge hand in keeping the nation rolling both practically and financially," said Harbison.

Harbison noted the Federal Government and State Governments have acknowledged how road transport will play a critical role in delivering these essential services to the country while they deal with COVID-19. 
"We have here in Australia a unique transport landscape, with a large portion of the nation heavily reliant on road vehicles to move essential goods—including food and medical supplies—while also carrying the major maintenance services of power, water and waste," he said. 

"To this end, the federal government’s comprehensive suite of stimulus measures—totaling upwards of $200 billion—and in particular, the Instant Asset Write-Off, are a welcome action, providing economic relief to broader business and those road transport operators relying on capital equipment for daily operations.

"For now, though, they serve a critical purpose in building business confidence along with the ability for continued investment, that will become a crucial factor in an economic rebound on the other side of this pandemic," said Harbison.

With industry operators no stranger to the challenges of a rapidly evolving environment and processing skyrocketing volumes of last-mile home deliveries, while simultaneously managing disruption to domestic and global supply chains, they have, for the most part, adapted well, with some increasing driver numbers and human resources in response according to Harbison. 

"As a commercial equipment supplier, we at Isuzu are acutely aware of the heightened responsibility to support and protect businesses, by securing a stable supply chain of vital truck parts and equipment to keep customers out there working and on the road," he said.

He pointed to recent government figures, that reported the freight and logistics industry accounted for 8.6 per cent of Australia’s GDP.

The industry employs over half a million workers, a labour force Harbison said that forms an integral part of the critical mass of workers generating steady income and economic stability for our country.

"As social distancing and travel restrictions are maintained to protect public health, road transport will be one of the few sectors that continues to grow through demand," he said.

"According to the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics, Australia’s freight task is projected to increase by 80 per cent up to 2030, with this rate of growth seeing freight triple by 2050," said Harbison.

While industries such as retail, tourism and hospitality are likely to take years to recover from the effects of social distancing measures, shutdowns and their economic implications, Harbison said it was worth reminding ourselves that it was human nature to adapt to harsh and unexpected changes to our environments.

"While dealing with the vital, on-the-ground issues of COVID-19, there is also real potential to build stronger and more resilient foundations for the future," he said.

"With every big challenge, those of us in industry know that collaborating and building resourceful short-term solutions for immediate problems can only have positive long-term outcomes after the virus has run its course."

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