ATA leaders urge united action on industry resistance

ATA acknowledges shortfalls in engaging grassroot truckies, while veteran says industry allows itself to be bulled by customers

By Rob McKay | May 26, 2011

Australian Trucking Association (ATA) Chairman David Simon acknowledged the organisational and the industry shortfalls at the start of the Australian Tucking Convention in Canberra today.

While highlighting the industry’s outstanding efforts following the Queensland floods and in safety, emissions reduction and fuel efficiency, Simon says industry unity was still a problem, saying "we need to pull together better"and added "we don’t communicate well with the grass-roots".

He said attracting new members was crucial, as was succession planning.

"We need someone to step into my shoes in 12 month’s time and I don’t know where that’s going to come from," he says.

He insisted that the ATA would resist the adoption of new national laws until they were worthy of it.

"We shouldn't underestimate the need to get that right," he says.

Simon’s comments came the morning after industry stalwart Peter Rocke issued a stern and passionate call to arms at the launch of the ATA’s 20th anniversary publication, Putting Safety First: A History of the Australian Trucking Association last night.

In addressing the lack of industry solidarity and cohesion, Rocke cast its attitude as subservient.

He noted that operators have been price-takers and effectively said they had allowed themselves to be bullied by customers, politicians, bureaucrats and enforcement agencies.

"Collectively, we have a ‘touch your forelock’ mentality," he says.

Neither did he spare the representative bodies.

He acknowledged that the anniversary book would not have been possible without the delegates.

"Without you people standing here, the book would not have been published because you have created the story which has resulted in the formation and development of a truly national trucking industry body - the ATA," he says.

He paid tribute to those on the history committee which he chaired - Mike Almond, Ron Bunker, Ross Fraser, Ron Finemore, Noelene Watson and Denis Robertson - and noted the involvement of Andrew Higginson.

But he also
made plain that the ATA was not attracting enough support from new entrants.

He noted the many nice trucks with sparkling liveries, not to mention the excellent driving behaviour of those in them, were taking to the Hume Freeway, before asking: "But who are these newcomers?

"I am bold enough to predict that the majority of them are not members of our state and federal organisations and most likely consider that the ATA is an arm of federal government.

"If we don’t embark on a national/state drive to attract members, we face the prospect of becoming completely irrelevant."

Rocke pointed to the financial shortfall in such initiatives as the mobile education centre (MEC) to illustrate the financial weakness of the ATA and its reliance on others to cover the bills.

The MEC cost $1.3 million in capital costs, of which $400,000 was donated by "generous industry people, leaving a shortfall of $900,000, which was underwritten by the income and rental from the NHQ [national headquarters] - in my opinion, the easy way out".

Its operating budget was "approximately $121,000 but this year to March 31, income has been $521".

"We as industry members cannot expect our generous sponsors to financially subsidise our own project, which we agreed to run." he says

"The old adage ‘physician, heal thyself’ could not be more apt in this instance.

"Think seriously about how we can pay our own way."

Rocke ended with a fanfare.

"I urge you to rise up and revolt," he says, before adding wryly: "You’ll have to do it without me because in 2031 I’ll be 96."

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