What will 2021 hold?

In The Last Mile, March 20215 MinutesBy The Accidental TruckerMay 9, 2021

Nobody should have been surprised at the outcome of the election, regardless of political persuasion. Having some certainty about the government‘s shape for the next three years must be good thing; there should be no surprises. No doubt events will happen that we will not like as an industry or personally but, given its mandate, whatever the government decides to do, it can do – with one eye, of course, towards 2023.

The new Minister of Transport, Michael Wood, will have his hands full with transport and his other portfolio, Workplace Relations and Safety, so it will be interesting to see the influence that each of these has on the other. No doubt he will have his own views on what should happen – but we should never forget that while ministers may change, the ‘officials‘ – those faceless people who advise ministers – typically don‘t. They provide continuity between one administration and the next. Something we can be sure of, though, is that some groups will be looking for payback for their support of the Labour Party.

In the Dominion Post of 4 November 2020, the minister is reported as saying, “unions must build membership” but indicates that he is not keen to bolster them through law changes; he stopped short of suggesting compulsory union membership. But sitting in the background is the Labour Party‘s Fair Pay Agreement policy, which got blocked during the government‘s first term. That blockage is no longer there and I suspect we can expect to see some action on this quite quickly.

As an industry, our biggest concern must be the state of the road network and the amount of work required to bring it back to anywhere near First World standard. Perhaps the minister will draw the link between the Crown‘s responsibility for workplace safety and the condition of the roads, which, after all, are our industry‘s workplace? The government should listen to our concerns; whether it will or simply go through the motions is another thing. But it will have to balance the cost of road maintenance against the cost of many of the other promises made and the growing mountain of debt New Zealand is running up; there is no bank of mum and dad to bail out the country if need be.

One thing I have learnt is that governments spend a lot of time and our money telling us what they will do but generally fall well short of producing the goods. They will have to deliver this time around, however, or risk having to look for new jobs in the later part of 2023.

Just as Covid-19 emerged to dominate our lives in 2020, so it will in 2021 and beyond. This year is unlikely to be a good one as the reality of the events since March 2020 hit home. For some, there will be opportunities; others may not be around at the end of the year. This is the reality of the world in which we now live. In some respects, it will be like going back to the primaeval world from which we came, where only the fittest and most agile survive.

Change is inevitable, and in 2021 we can expect to see a lot of it. Our industry has always been nimble at adapting to change, especially when we can see benefits such as HPMV. Still, we should never forget one of the fundamentals of any business – adapt or fail. We have a fundamental right to expect our government – red or blue – to provide safe and well-maintained roads. Goodness knows we pay enough towards them.

In other things, though, the industry will have to take the lead and make change within ourselves. What may have served us well in the past, such as the structure and style of our industry representation, may not be so good for the future. Adapt or fail may well become our strategy for 2021.

The Accidental Trucker