Wins among the 2022 challenge

In News6 MinutesBy Nick LeggettMarch 11, 2022

With 2022 shaping up as another challenging year for businesses and workers, as everyone battles Omicron, rising prices for everything, and the effects of rising inflation being felt through the economy, it is important we celebrate some wins along the way.

This week’s passing in Parliament of the Land Transport (Drug Driving) Amendment Bill is a win for road safety and our industry. Random roadside drug testing by the Police is something we have lobbied hard for over the years.

We supported this legislation with both a written submission to the Parliamentary select committee responsible for the final shape of the law, and by appearing in person before that select committee to put our case.

People sometimes comment on us being based in Wellington and this is one of the reasons why. We have direct access to government ministers, MPs and officials and we spend a lot of our time ensuring they are aware of what the road freight transport industry needs to operate at its best. Appearing in person before select committees to advocate for our industry is a powerful tool. The committee gets to ask questions and thereby, get a deeper understanding of what we are supporting or asking for.

This roadside drug testing law, which comes into force next year, is important to the road freight transport industry because for our truck drivers, the road is their workplace. They can be the best driver in the world, but up against someone flying high, the risks to their safety are elevated. All our operators want to see their drivers home safely at the end of each shift and we hope this law will contribute to that.

We know there is also the potential for drug use in our industry and urge operators to continue to be vigilant with workplace random drug testing. The Police will definitely stop trucks once they start random roadside testing so it is best to be prepared for that.

Another win was the push by our industry, along with others in the supply chain, to reduce the home isolation time for those either sick with Omicron, or having to stay home as household contacts. The Government announced this week the isolation period will reduce from 10 days to seven. We still think it should be five and will keep pushing for that as Omicron peaks and there may be some provision to reduce the isolation period further.

On the industry’s behalf we have spoken to the Transport Minister about this and I’ve done numerous media interviews on relieving pressure on the stretched supply chain by reducing the isolation time.

The pressure has finally paid off and now household contacts who aren’t even sick can get back to work faster, and those who do get Omicron in a mild form can also return to work when they are ready. You just need to look around at the closed cafes, closed shops with ‘sorry’ signs in the window, and bare supermarket shelves to know something has to give.

We have taken a proactive approach to addressing how Omicron will impact road freight transport businesses by starting early in the hunt for relief drivers in anticipation of staff numbers reduced by potentially more than 30%.

We dipped our toe in the water with a campaign that netted 150 drivers keen to give relief driving a go. These are people with class 2, 4 or 5 licences who for whatever reason, aren’t in the current driving pool but would be happy to go back.

We have so far given 100 driver names and details to operators in their area who have asked for relief drivers.

As transport operators rate a driver shortage as their number one business issue – and that was before Omicron – we note that some of the operators who signed up for this relief driver match-up have yet to contact the drivers we sent them.

We believe operators need to think outside the immediate square and see the potential in a driver they might use for a week to cover someone who is sick, being someone that they would like to employ for more hours, or even permanently.

We are launching a big advertising campaign next week to get more drivers’ details. We see this as a massive opportunity for the industry to invest in its key area – the people who drive the trucks – and bring in new talent.

Look out for the campaign – it won’t be what you are expecting. And please contact us to be matched with keen experienced drivers who are itching to get back behind the wheel.

By Nick Leggett, CEO, Ia Ara Aotearoa Transporting New Zealand