More change inevitable for road transport sector

In News7 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineSeptember 30, 2022

Change is coming to the road transport sector, and it will have a big impact on both business and the New Zealand economy in the coming decade.

That was the clear message for delegates at The Road Ahead conference this week, organised by Transporting New Zealand.

More than 250 representatives of the road transport industry from around the country gathered at the Ascot Park Hotel in Invercargill for the two-day event.

Keynote speaker, digital technology pioneer Sir Ian Taylor, told the conference that societies cannot go backwards, although it is still important to learn from the past.

He quoted a Māori proverb, “The footprints we lay down today create the path for tomorrow.”

He also quoted his own business’s mission statement: “Bugger the boxing, pour the concrete anyway,” describing the importance of innovation and trusting in the abilities of employees.

Taylor also affirmed the importance of respecting the environment. “We are all connected, plants, people, and animals.”

Taylor’s message about change was echoed by other speakers, including Dave Ffowcs Williams, head of supply chain for Datacom, who spoke on sharing information systems, data customer profiling, and security; and Chris Claridge, chief executive of Potatoes New Zealand, who spoke about technology as a disruptor of transport, which he said is already happening at pace in Europe and will also happen worldwide.

Transport Minister Michael Wood beamed in via Zoom to outline the Government’s activities and priorities. Wood described the “ambitious vision” of Road to Zero to reduce deaths and serious injuries on the roads by 40% by 2050.

“Based on international evidence, we can do the right things and save many lives – safer vehicles, safer drivers, safer roads, and safer speeds,” he said.

Wood said the government remains committed to spending money on improving roads, as well as the need for new technologies and taking action on climate change.

National’s transport spokesman Simeon Brown challenged the government and said it needed to keep costs under control. “We have to be realistic, 93% of freight moves by trucks and that isn’t going to change any time soon regardless of how much money the government spends on rail.”

Nicole Rosie, chief executive of Waka Kotahi, also outlined the challenges ahead for New Zealand’s transport system.

“We have to look 50 to 100 years ahead. This is complex and requires us to think hard about multiple outcomes, not just for this generation but for generations to come.”

Economist Cameron Bagrie warned that the world has entered a new era in economics, and we all have to get used to a harsh new reality.

Bagrie said the coming era is going to require a different approach. “Disruption is the new normal. One plus one equals 11. You have to take risks because doing things the same old, same old is not going to work. As well as dealing with disruption, the laws of economics are back in play.”

Containing inflation involves some pain, Bagrie warned. “Weak players will be eliminated. Do you want to be the hunter or the hunted? A big economic experiment has just ended. We need braver and real leaders to negotiate us out of a tough prickly economic time.”

He said “economic reality” had sunk in over the last week after the UK announced a big spending package and tax cuts. “The pound got absolutely smashed and interest rates increased. The market was telling the politicians the days of the bottomless pit in terms of money is over. We need substance to decision-making, not politicians spreading money or tax cuts about like confetti.”

US Federal Reserve Governor Jerome Powell got it right by warning about the dangers of inflation and saying it needed to be fixed. There was also some other good news. “House prices are not going to keep going up. Perhaps New Zealanders need to invest in real productive assets and banks need to change their culture and invest into the real productive part of New Zealand.”

Bagrie also stressed the need to invest more in education, health and infrastructure.

“Will a change of government support infrastructure spending and address education or simply put money in people’s pocket to appease voters? We do not need tax cuts. Witness what happened in the UK. We need policies with real substance.”

Other speakers at the two-day conference focused on coming changes to the industry, including the challenges and opportunities of attracting new and younger people into the industry, and introducing new technology, including hydrogen and electric vehicles.

Look out for a full report of the conference in the forthcoming issues of New Zealand Trucking magazine.

For more information contact:

Nick Leggett, CEO, Transporting New Zealand
Mob: 021 248 2175

About Ia Ara Aotearoa Transporting New Zealand

Ia Ara Aotearoa Transporting New Zealand (Transporting New Zealand) provides unified national representation for the trucking industry, that is, about 1,200 individual road freight transport companies, which operate about 14,000 heavy trucks delivering for New Zealand.

The road freight transport industry employs 32,868 people (2.0% of the workforce), has a gross annual turnover of $6 billion, and transports 93% of the total tonnes of freight moved in New Zealand.