National regulator “applauds” Natroad for its business skills information kit, a rare source of small business advice in Australian trucking
As everyone in the Australia trucking industry knows, there’s a desperate shortage of business know-how amongst many new trucking entrants.
For decades used truck dealerships have been littered with the shattered dreams of naïve owner drivers and small fleets in the form of shiny rigs they have discovered to their horror that they can’t afford to pay off.
It seems there is always a steady supply of new chums who might be brilliant truck drivers with terrific technical skills to do their own maintenance, but who haven’t got a clue about running a small business.
Not only do these people often go broke – often thanks in part to unscrupulous financiers and customers – but they often undercut other small operators who do know what they’re doing.
For decades there has been precious little specialist trucking business advice available for budding operators, to show them the basics of how to run a business and a set of books and properly price a job to factor in all the costs and still make a profit. And that’s assuming they get paid on time.
Ironically the minimum payments calculator provided very late in the piece by the now defunct Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal might have been a handy guide for some aspects of operating particular trucks, but the RSRT website no longer exists.
Way back in 1999 the landmark federal parliament report Beyond the Midnight Oil: Managing Fatigue in Transport knocked the idea of minimum rates on the head, but saidgovernments should do more to educate transport operators about basic business principles.
“Owner-drivers are a particular risk group in regard to viability,” the report said. “Governments and industry should also establish a training fund to subsidise access by owner-drivers to business training programs. This will help overcome the cost barriers that many owner-drivers currently face in attempting to upgrade their business skills.”
Of course that’s assuming operators can find the time to do the courses.
Learning business skills
They have been few and far between over the years, but we have found two sources of detailed advice on most aspects of running a trucking business which could help save the neck of new players.
One of them was recently produced by operator peak body Natroad, and is called: My Trucking Business Toolkit. You can download it at www.smalltruckingbusiness.com/
“We have tried and tested business tools, adapted them for trucking and made them available here to help you strengthen your business,” says the website.
“Manage your cash flow, see your profit and loss, or run a balance sheet. If you are worried about the challenges ahead take an hour to generate a SWOT – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats assessment. Or why not start from scratch for the year ahead and use the … Business Plan template.
“If you just need a tune up then our quick tips to increase efficiency might give you a few ideas of what to tackle to find more time or more money.”
Natroad CEO Warren Clark has a background advising small businesses as a chartered accountant.
“We want small business to be prepared for changes in the market and in industry,” Clark says.
It’s a tough environment out there: we have previously reported that ANZ Bank forecasts the number of small scale trucking operators to drop from 41,000 to 33,000 in the next two decades.
“Funding for small business advice in the transport industry would be a great initiative by a forward thinking government,” adds Clark, echoing the official recommendation from nearly two decades ago.
National Heavy Vehicle Regulator CEO Sal Petroccitto says Natroad needs to be “applauded and acknowledged” for what he describes as a “very smart piece of work”.
Meanwhile also available free on the Internet is a 2012 guide produced by the WA Department of Transport.
Running a Trucking Business in Western Australia: A Guide For Owner-Drivers is also a handy reference for small trucking operators in other states.
It runs to 77 pages and has sections including contracts; choosing a truck; finance; business plans; record-keeping; cash flow management; calculating costs; customer service and so on.
Check out the full feature in an upcoming issue of Owner//Driver. Subscribe here.