The Prime Movers of 2014

Commercial road transport is a complex industry with too many stakeholders involved to truly capture all personnel changes that have occurred since we all returned form our Christmas break. But 2014 appeared to be especially busy on the HR front.

Daimler Trucks
Daimler Trucks went through a complete global restructure during the first quarter of 2014 that saw the Australian operation being re-aligned under the leadership of Daimler Trucks North America. The local management team also went through an overhaul, with Australian-born Daniel Whitehead returning to home soil after many years in Hong Kong and China to replace Kolja Rebstock as Managing Director. An outspoken AFL fan, Dr Rebstock went off to head Daimler Trucks in Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe. But there’s more to come. Daimler brand Freightliner celebrated 25 years in Australia in 2014 and brought over Kristi Walker from the company’s North American sales division to head up the marque down here. Ms Walker arrived with a certain degree of fanfare and high expectations, only to return to the US for family reasons after a few short weeks in Australia. The critical position is expected to be filled “soon”. Justin Whitford, who comes from a background in the bus component industry, took on the role of General Manager of Mercedes-Benz’ trucks and bus brands in 2013 and has continued in that role during the past season, as has Richard Eye, who is heading up Fuso’s truck and bus division. Justin’s expertise in change management has also been making his presence felt during 2014. Recognising the need for some in-house expertise in corporate communications, Daimler went on to appoint former magazine publisher Geoff Paradise to the position of Senior Manager for Public Affairs during the final quarter of 2014. With decades of global media experience, Geoff’s challenge is to raise awareness of the Daimler Group’s three brands in 2015.

Penske Group
Also on the OEM front, US powerhouse Penske acquired the Australian operations for Western Star, MAN and Dennis Eagle from Transpacific Industries in late 2013, pushing the company right into the limelight in 2014. But while the US company did announce its involvement in the V8 Supercars series halfway through the year, it left the existing management structure widely untouched. Former Hino man Cris Gillespie is the only addition to team – he is now acting as the General Manager of Marketing across the three brands. Penske’s up-and-coming truck leasing and rental division in Australia is now headed up by Adrian Beach, who already worked for the juggernaut in the USA.

Although he took on the role of managing director of PACCAR Australia during 2013, following the retirement of Joe Rizzo, 2014 saw personable Mike Dozier cement his position as he steered the Kenworth brand to retain its position as number one in Australia’s heavy duty truck sector.

CAT Trucks
Cat Trucks continued to make an impact in 2014, even though the man who oversaw the Australian launch of the brand, Bill Fulton, returned to a role at Cat engines in the USA early in the year. His Australian position was taken over by former Detroit Diesel executive Kevin Dennis, who was recently lured back to MTU Detroit Diesel after Penske acquired it. But, the by-now labelled Navistar Auspac organisation didn’t have to look too far for Kevin’s replacement as Glen Sharman, who had been Marketing Manager since Cat’s Australian debut, stepped up to take on the position of Director of Sales, Marketing and Business Development.

Simon Humphries returned to an engineering role at Isuzu after a period of working at the Truck Industry Council. His slot at the TIC was filled by Mark Hammond, who formerly worked as an engineer at Fuso.

Alex Stewart departed Hino to accept the big challenge of taking Foton trucks to the Australian market after Transpacific stepped away from it some time ago. New Foton distributor Ateco has a good record with Asian, European and, lately, Chinese vehicles – including the Great Wall brand and Foton’s own ute range. Alex insists that the engineering and production qualities of the latest models will be worth the wait. Meanwhile, Bill Gillespie, following a stint at Peugeot, moved into a marketing position at Hino after his son Cris’s move to Penske in Brisbane. Bill’s role now includes dealer development.

Volvo Trucks
At Volvo Trucks, Mitch Peden worked his way up the ladder to take on the Vice President’s position, following Gary Bone’s departure to become CEO of the Chesterfield Group, which distributes agricultural equipment in Australia. During the year, Julie Skerman was officially given the Director of Marketing and Communications title – a role that she had been fulfilling since Mitch Peden’s promotion.

Personnel changes in 2014 were not only restricted to the truck OEM scene. When the National Heavy Vehicle Regular (NHVR) struggled to cope with the administration of permits after its launch in February, Richard Hancock stepped down as CEO. He has since been replaced by Sal Petroccitto, who has been working tirelessly to get the Regulator back on track and ensure that the industry is well informed of developments to improve the body’s performance. Sal, who can look back at a distinguished career holding senior positions within the Queensland transport industry, casts no illusions as to the critical importance of the success of the NHVR. “There won’t be a third CEO of the NHVR,” he said back in June, referring to his commitment to make the Regulator work.

Neil Chambers departed from the CEO’s seat at the Victorian Transport Association in late September, and that important position has since been taken up by Peter Anderson, former CEO of the Scott’s Group.

David Coonan, who served for eight years as the Australian Trucking Association’s policy manager, retired in 2014 with some health issues. Long time ATA staffer Bill McKinley took on the role of dealing with various government entities on behalf of the ATA and its members. ATA CEO Stuart St Clair also announced his resignation to be effective at the end of March 2015, which will have seen him at the helm of the industry’s peak body for nine years. The former saw miller, Member of Parliament and always passionate advocate for the road transport industry will be heading to Western Australia for a less hectic life, immediately following the ATA’s annual conference in Hobart in March.

The light commercial vehicle sector wasn’t immune from change either, with Karla Leach, Director of Corporate Affairs at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, departing in late October. Karla oversaw Fiat’s re-emergence into the LCV market with the new Scudo and Ducato models and has been succeeded by Fiat’s own Lucy McLellan, who formerly served as Senior Internal & CEO Communications Manager and Regional Manager, Central Region.

At least two of the nation’s biggest transport fleets will have new people in charge for 2015, too. Former Managing Director of TNT Australia, Bob Black, is set to take on the role as Executive General Manager for Parcel Services at Australia Post at the beginning of 2015. Black will be responsible for the Parcel Services division, which includes the StarTrak brand. Most recently, he served as the manager of TNT Benelux. From 2009 to 2014, Black was the Managing Director for TNT Australia, responsible for Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific region.

Michael Byrne will finish up his job as Linfox CEO at Christmas. To say that Byrne was driven and passionate would be a massive understatement. Under Byrne and the Linfox board’s stewardship, the family-controlled company has grown to be a powerhouse not just in Australia, but Asia as well. After announcing his intentions earlier in the year, Michael quipped that his main aim for the rest of 2014 was to be the “first CEO not to be sacked by the Fox family”.


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