Telling our story

5 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineDecember 18, 2020

I have spent much of the past week talking to media about the impacts of Northport‘s decision to berth the Constantinos P and offload 1340 containers bound for Auckland and further south.

Every story has two sides and my role is to ensure our industry is heard. There are two parts to this particular action – the complications of the berth itself and moving containers, and the impact on the road traffic between Auckland and Northport with more trucks on the road than normal at the busiest time of the year.

I‘m not going to relitigate the port‘s decision to berth the ship. The media clearly fixated on this being an action to save Christmas for retailers and shoppers. Suffice to say we don‘t want a repeat without a lot more planning and communication, as well as consideration of the impact on moving logs, the port‘s mainstay.

Trucking is an incredibly adaptable and flexible industry, as New Zealanders have seen in all emergency and disaster situations. Drivers turn up and move goods where they need to go. But the supply chain is under enormous pressure and the worst is yet to come.

While New Zealanders are known for their creative solutions, those also need to be well thought out, manageable, and not create new and additional problems.

The supply chain issues are putting tremendous strain on a number of businesses throughout New Zealand and with that comes crippling stress. While this kind of pressure can be sustainable for short bursts, when it is over a longer term there can be serious consequences for both human and economic health and wellbeing.

While much of New Zealand will be taking a break over the next few weeks, for many others this is the busiest and most stressful time of year. The days of New Zealand shutting down for Christmas are long gone, for business anyway.

Police, like truck drivers, will be out on the road in force. They, quite rightly, saw that the movement of containers from Northport to Auckland and further south had the potential to impact road safety. There were going to be a lot more trucks on the road, some of those roads not suitable for that volume of heavy traffic, at one of the busiest times of the year as people prepare for Christmas and go on holiday.

There has been a lot of publicity about the fact that the truck checks found some operators coming up short.

I can‘t defend the indefensible. The road is our truck drivers‘ workplace. They need to be safe at work and their employers, family and community want them to go home at the end of every shift alive and well.

I can point out that 11 of 534 trucks inspected were taken off the road. The majority of the trucks were road worthy and faults found were minor and fixable. Bald tyres, inadequate braking and drivers over their hours however, don‘t help the trucking industry with its “social licence” to operate. That is, the support of those outside our industry for what we do.

The anti-trucking lobby constantly push to “take dangerous trucks off the road”. I reply to that by saying trucks on the road are not dangerous and if they are, the Police and the NZ Transport Agency will take the operator‘s to task, as we have seen in Northland.

To give the public confidence in the trucking industry, everyone needs to be mindful of how they see us and how we are portrayed in the media.

I know our industry has a busy road ahead while much of New Zealand have their feet up at the beach, lake or river, with a cold beer in their hands.

Keep up the good work, stay safe out there, and be assured we are doing everything we can to look at the supply chain issues that will carry well into 2021.

By Nick Leggett, CEO, Road Transport Forum