The “S’’ big four – staff, skills, safety and supply chain improvement – as well as government relations and policy, road quality and rest stops, staff health, reducing emissions and tax will dominate the conference sessions and workshops of Trucking Australia 2022, which begin on Thursday at the Gold Coast.

The annual conference is sponsored by the Australian Trucking Association on behalf of its 50,000 businesses and 200,000 workers.

Western Roads Federation chief executive Cam Dumesny wants the conference to discuss “a whole-of-career, structured approach to our industry training and employment’’.

Dumesny is one of three slotted speakers on the topic, Solving the Skills Shortage, with Queensland Trucking Association chief executive Gary Mahon, Russell Transport director Julie Russell and Australian Industry Standards chief executive Paul Walsh.

QTA’s CEO Gary Mahon and Russell Transport director Julie Russell.
QTA’s CEO Gary Mahon and Russell Transport director Julie Russell.

Dumesny says the conference needs to explore how to attract more people to the industry for expansion and staff replacement needs, including retirements.

“How do we train people such that they are employment-ready’’ and “how do we upskill people to move into other career roles’’ are other concerns to develop at the conference, he says.

For practical training, the conference should consider “how we tap into the experience of our veteran drivers such that they can help teach the next generation’’.

Western Roads Federation chief executive Cam Dumesny.
Western Roads Federation chief executive Cam Dumesny.

Dumesny says the conference also could draw out examples of companies that are restructuring jobs to bring in people, he says.

Management skills are another priority. “How do we improve the professional education of industry executives to help prepare them for the disruptive changes facing the industry in the future?’’ is another question for the conference, Dumesny says.

According to the ATA, “the trucking industry skills shortage has become a crisis, as the global pandemic increases the pressures on skills gaps that were already undermining our supply chains’’. Possible solutions include driver apprenticeships, a “truckie reserve army’’ of licence holders and “cutting red-tape visa requirements for refugees’’.

Samuel Marks, the ATA’s senior adviser, infrastructure and sustainability, says Australia needs to reset its transport policy, and Trucking Australia 2022 is a beginning for that.

“Our cities and urban freight networks are congested. Major and regional freight routes are often poorly maintained,’’ Marks says. “We need to build a truly national highway network that is resilient to frequent natural disasters, and which incentivises productivity and economic growth by enabling access for high-productivity freight vehicles.’’

Marks says building better infrastructure is about how much funding is going to roads but also ensuring the funding goes to national freight priorities that support the economy.

Trucking Australia will discuss such freight priorities for roads, including Queensland’s inland freight route, building better rest areas, maintenance of existing roads and boosting productivity on national highways, he says.

Marks says the conference will also discuss how net-zero emissions goals may change trucking businesses and what governments can do to assist the industry’s part in the net-zero goal.

Trucking Australia will be an opportunity to focus on reducing emissions and what the bipartisan commitment to net-zero emissions by 2050 will mean for trucking, he says.

“The transition to zero-emission trucks – both electric and hydrogen – will be critical to the future of Australia’s supply chains. Net zero by 2050 means we need a plan to get to 100 per cent of truck sales being zero emissions by 2040,’’ he says.

“For operators, this includes looking at when zero-emission trucks will increasingly become available, when they will likely be cost-competitive, and what different technologies can achieve,’’ Marks says.

“For government, this means we need a more ambitious plan to invest in both electric-truck recharging infrastructure and green hydrogen refuelling infrastructure.’’

On existing use of fuel, Chris Sant and Anthony Harmer from Ryan Tax Services will describe how transport operators can recover their full fuel tax credit entitlement, and also discuss the effects from the government’s recent fuel excise changes.

The March federal budget allowed a six-month halving in fuel tax, or excise, to 22.1c a litre until September 28, including for petrol and diesel.

“Although temporary, these changes raised significant practical issues for the industry, which has the potential to lead to fuel tax credit underclaims,’’ Sant says.

Extracted in full form: A critical moment in the road freight industry | The Australian