Thirty years of improving our industry

Safety was not always prominent in the trucking industry, however after an horrific truck and bus crash near Grafton in 1989 it was decided that something must be done.

A month later, a meeting between key individuals in the Australian trucking industry called for action, and thus the Australian Trucking Association was born.

From humble beginnings in a wooden aircraft hangar, the ATA has grown to transform the Australian trucking industry.

For 30 years the ATA has strengthened the voice of Australia’s 50,000 operators and 200,000 people, by working collaboratively with its members to improve industry safety, professionalism and viability.

Thanks to the dedication of those passionate, strong-minded individuals who first came together 30 years ago to put everything on the line in the best interest of the industry, we have seen a drastic improvement in safety outcomes and immense productivity gains.

There has been significant progress on making our roads safer.

Figures prepared by the Centre for Automotive Safety Research for the ATA show that the rate of fatal articulated truck crashes fell 80 per cent between 1982 and 2015, despite the enormous growth in the number of trucks on the road. Over the last three years, fatal crashes involving articulated trucks have continued to decrease.

Providing the backbone of supply chains, trucking is an Australian success story.

Between 1971 and 2007, trucking industry productivity increased six-fold due to the uptake of high productivity vehicles like B-doubles.

It has been estimated that in the absence of productivity improvements over this period that nearly 150,000 articulated trucks, in addition to the 70,000 registered for use in 2007, would have been required to undertake the 2007 articulated truck freight task.

In 2017, there was an estimated reduction of more than 440 million kilometres in truck travel and an average 24.8 per cent productivity gain across commodities carried by PBS vehicles.

As the ATA heads into its next chapter, we must now look to addressing the challenges that lie ahead.

Next year will be significant for trucking as we anticipate the continued development of revised national truck laws: legislation that will last decades and affect everyone in the industry.

For years the ATA has advocated for this review and the delivery of a back-to-basics approach that is so desperately needed.

Australia is home to the fifth largest freight task in the world and road freight essential to our economy.

It’s vital that we have clear and modern legislation in place to reflect our changing industry. Out of date and impractical regulation is costing our industry millions and taking money out of the pockets of everyday Australians.

Implementing more productive heavy vehicle access on our roads can save a typical family $452 each year, and for local businesses it’s worth an annual $80 million for wholesale trade, $70 million for construction services and $40 million for retail trade.

As a nation we must be better, and our politicians should not be scared of making valuable commitments to improving productivity and safety.
We need to unlock freight routes for High Productivity Freight Vehicles across the nation and especially on the Hume Highway.

As it stands, this is Australia’s busiest and most advanced highway that’s stuck running out-dated combinations that were pioneered in the 1990s.

By assuming staged access to the highways connecting Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide Australia would gain $6.9 billion in direct real term benefits, with two thirds of the operational benefits coming from allowing HPFV access to the Hume Highway.

Through our Industry Technical Council, the ATA is exploring practical and safe solutions to give government confidence that this can be achieved. 

We are also amidst a time of great disruption as both the trucking industry and association landscape faces technological and social change, changing the way we do business, work and live.

We are now in a situation where we must adapt to change and embrace new technologies and opportunities, or else fall behind.

While technological advancements such as machine learning and artificial intelligence may seem intimidating or confusing, they hold the key to unlocking business productivity and the potential to grow like never before. We must also work to bridge the ever-widening generational divide and nurture our industry’s next generation.

Initiatives such as the ATA’s Daimler Truck and Bus Future Leaders’ Forum are the key to developing strong leaders who will help build a stronger, safer and more productive industry.

So, what does the next ten years hold? Whatever the challenges, we must not see these as a barrier to success but rather a motivator to strive for greatness, an opportunity to strengthen the industry and secure its future as a major contributor to the Australian way of life.

Ben Maguire
Australian Trucking Association

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