Welcome to COVID normal

Last year was undoubtedly tough. Industry rose to the significant challenges of the bushfires only to be asked, almost immediately, to dig deep to counter the unprecedented challenges of COVID.

That meant digging deep all year. With 2020 now in the rear-view mirror, there is much of which our industry can feel proud and, perhaps, optimistic about as we look ahead this year.

Necessity has driven deeper engagement as governments turned to industry for help. Our common objective, keeping freight flowing while preventing transmission of the disease along the vector of supply chains, was almost universally achieved.

What started early in the crisis as grudging respect from governments has expanded into real trust.

This level of trust delivered major advances including, initially, respecting the idea that all ‘freight is essential’, this quickly moved to special privileges for our industry at borders prioritising the movement of freight over the movement of people.

Quiet, initial agreements with governments developed into the National Freight Movement Code passed by National Cabinet. Exceptional work from the ALC Safety Committee in sharing advanced COVID Safe plans with governments convinced all that our industry was deserving of special consideration.

Notable highlights for our team in 2020 also included working across Federal Departments, Ministers and State Premiers to secure the unilateral suspension of curfews across 547 local Councils Australia-wide.

Governments and departments at all levels are now working with us to keep these as a permanent fixture.

Significantly, enhanced trust with the Government has delivered a broader range of relationships with departments including Home Affairs, Treasury, and Foreign Affairs and Trade expanding our influence and their knowledge of the importance of supply chains.

Our 2021 focus will be giving effect to our new Strategic plan 2021-26 delivering a much greater focus on member value and maintaining the trust demanded to get the policy and infrastructure we need.

We also have a specific focus on the future including training, technology uptake, and championing a single freight data standard to improve data-led decision making.

This includes holding jurisdictions to account on their promises with our Scorecard launched in December by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, the Hon Michael McCormack MP.

In 2021, ALC will push for closer industry and government consultation built off the COVID response. Governments and industry worked closely to ensure freight moved efficiently across state borders while confronting and controlling the spread of COVID-19.

We want to maintain this momentum, with the partnership between industry and governments delivering smart solutions to problems and real time responses to opportunities.

This will include developing policy and infrastructure to support rapid advances in technology from automation and electric delivery vehicles to data capture and analysis. Immediate policy priorities for early 2021 include:

1. COVID -19 new normal

• Permanent removal of curfews
• Working with governments to ensure safe and efficient national vaccine delivery including gaining priority access to the vaccine for all freight workers
• Continue to prioritise the movement of freight over passengers
• Maintain momentum with partnerships with governments at all levels to improve industry efficiency and safety and support national recovery.

Research commissioned by ALC indicates that the removal of curfews in residential areas during COVID had minimal impact and broad support.

ALC is pressing governments at all levels to remove curfews permanently while reviewing alternative solutions to noise reduction such as electric vehicles and soundless reversing technologies.

2. Delivering the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy

• Holding jurisdictions accountable for implementation through the ALC Scorecard
• Supporting the establishment of the National Freight Data Hub; and,
• Promoting a Single Freight Data Standard

Capturing and understanding real time data, made possible through the adoption of a national data standard and development of a national data hub, is crucial. Strong data leads to better informed policy and infrastructure choices. This includes better urban planning and long-term preservation of freight lands and corridors.

3. Adopting a National Operator Standard
Required standards include:

• Mandating safety management systems to ensure baseline compliance
• Financial measures to ensuring heavy vehicles are safely maintained
• Ensuring accurate, real time safety data is efficiently and reliably collected via telematics

Nationally consistent rules will deliver a level playing field on safety.

This improves community confidence and controls dangerous and unsustainable cost cutting. National standards deliver a better, safer, and more sustainable heavy vehicle industry.

Kirk Coningham