New Brand for Industry Leader as we look to a Covid-19 Future

In Ia Ara Aotearoa Transporting New Zealand, October 20216 MinutesBy Nick LeggettNovember 10, 2021

First, let me acknowledge the rebranding of the Road Transport Forum as Ia Ara Aotearoa Transporting New Zealand (Transporting New Zealand).

We had hoped to show off our rebranding and explain the journey at a launch event at Parliament, but we had to cancel, thanks to the latest lockdown. Nevertheless, I believe replacing the tired RTF brand with Ia Ara Aotearoa Transporting New Zealand better reflects the active role of road freight transport in the 21st century and as a significant contributor to prosperity in the New Zealand economy.

Our new name conveys what the industry does for the public and businesses in New Zealand – transporting their goods to their door when they need them or their food, medicines and other essentials to the stores at which they shop. It is also about looking forward.

The August lockdown of the whole country is proof we have to stop running from this Covid-19 virus and accept that there will be a point when we have to live with it. There is too much at stake if we don’t. We will continue to be cowed in a state of fear by something we now have the tool – a vaccine – to overcome.

We must start building our psychological, physical, social and economic resilience, and a big part of that is making sure essential workers are vaccinated and looked after. It has been incredibly disappointing to learn of the low level of vaccinated people in our industry during this lockdown. This is not the industry’s fault at all, as a survey we recently conducted showed a very high demand for vaccinations among industry staff. The government has not prioritised essential workers, and that is now coming back to bite us.

The people who support New Zealand’s elimination course have a big say in the rule-making, but generally, they are not the ones who are keeping this country moving. We risk some very poor societal outcomes if we keep feeding into the fear and reacting with future lockdowns. Instead, let’s prioritise rolling out the jab (particularly to essential workers) and open up our country and economy again.

There was also a ‘she’ll be right’ message from the government regarding the insurance liability of trucks during the level 4 lockdown. But that message is not good enough for operators who have trucks that could be worth several hundreds of thousands of dollars.

No disrespect to insurance companies, they do the job they do and they serve the industry well. But the government is asking trucking operators to simply trust those companies to honour contracts for trucks that cannot have their Certificates of Fitness (CoF) renewed, driven by drivers who cannot have their licences renewed, due to level-4 restrictions.

Since day one of the most recent lockdown, and on several occasions since, Transporting New Zealand has requested Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency put in writing its intent to issue a notice granting concession on CoF and driver licence expiry. However, despite verbal assurance of this, the agency would not commit to putting that on record.

We have been told: “There are no policy decisions which have [been] made yet. The small extensions to lockdown are not giving us the certainty everyone needs to make some solid calls.” This is not good enough; rule No.1 of crisis management is you make decisions with the information you have on the day. Instead, we appear to have officials overcome by timidity.

The move from level 4 to level 3 for the country south of Auckland at the beginning of September also raised serious concerns for our industry.

We saw the chaos that occurred last year with drivers passing through differing alert levels and asked to be part of the planning but were told that the prime minister’s department, cabinet and the health ministry would be the decision-makers. Last year, this turned into a serious health and safety issue for drivers, a critical animal welfare issue, and a cause of waste of perishable food, as well as a risk to essential medicines reaching their destination. We were hoping for better this time around.

The fact is, the road transport industry needs to be involved alongside the government with logistics planning at times like this. We have the expertise and are keen to make use of it.

Finally, The Road Ahead: Transporting New Zealand Conference cannot take place under current alert level rules. The Transporting New Zealand board was forced to make a call on this a few weeks ago and, with the likelihood that at least parts of New Zealand would still not be at level 1, there was very little alternative. Registered delegates will be contacted by Transporting New Zealand.