Team work makes the dream work

Collaboration is a bit of a buzz word, bandied around all too frequently. But I want to tell you a story about genuine collaboration between our industry and government.

Yesterday, we launched our Te ara ki tua Road to success industry traineeship in Auckland. We were fortunate to be joined by Social Development and Employment Minister Carmel Sepuloni and Transport and Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Wood, who both spoke about how great it was to see the various parts of government they are responsible for coming together to get a traineeship off the ground in an industry they support and see value in.

This traineeship is about providing a career path for people who want to work in road freight transport – as drivers primarily – but also in the other skilled roles the industry offers. Truck driving is a challenging and varied job, with lots of skills required. The contribution a good truck driver makes to a business and to the wider New Zealand economy and wellbeing is immense, as we saw during the Covid-19 lockdowns as trucks kept rolling while most of us were safe at home.

There is often a view that young people need to change to fit something. We are taking the opposite view. The industry must change to fit the desires of a modern workforce. That means qualifications, structure, on-the-job training, and license progression, as we are very short of Class 5 drivers. The challenge is that many businesses don’t have anything other than Class 5 vehicles, so it is harder to train, but not impossible if people work together. I wish to emphasise that it is very much about the industry taking the lead and finding solutions to its own challenges.

But we have needed help to do that. We have known for a long time there was a truck driver shortage and with increased demand for road freight and an ageing workforce, we need to focus on training the next generations to come and keeping them engaged and excited about the industry.

Sometimes, when you go to the government for help, it can be a demoralising experience. But not in the case of this traineeship. We were able to work across different parts of government and get everyone on the same page and enthusiastic about the opportunities this traineeship will offer.

And we were able to do it in a year – the year that the world stood still to combat Covid-19.

The Tertiary Education Commission and MITO have enabled us to offer industry specific micro-credentials for trainees to get formal qualifications. Training is a mix of practical and theoretical components. MITO have also waived fees for the micro-credentials – which are completed on line – until 31 December 2021.

The industry partnerships team at the Ministry of Social Development (MSD)  have been hugely influential in assisting the RTF through this process, along with their Kiwi Can Do team who get people work-ready. We will continue working with MSD to place registered job seekers and those affected by Covid-19 job losses in traineeships with road transport operators.

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency have shown a strong interest in the programme and support for our concept of training drivers to be better and safer on the road. That is a goal we share.

On the other side, we need industry to take up what we are offering them – motivated workers keen to get out there on the road and keep delivering for New Zealand.

Showing tremendous leadership, Chris Carr and the Carr & Haslam team are in step with us. They have taken on three trainees via MSD – all who went through the Kiwi Can Do programme.  Betty Heremaia Sola, Liana Manu and Shaun Tomai are able to work and earn money while they go about their training, and they are already valued by Carr & Haslam.

Carr & Haslam hosted the launch event yesterday with Ministers, government officials, industry and media all attending, and as the final speaker, Chris Carr threw down the gauntlet to other transport operators to follow his example.

You can find out more about the traineeship at www.roadtosuccess.nz and please don’t hesitate to contact us to register your interest.

In the photo above, from left to right: Chris Carr, Hon. Michael Wood, Betty Heremaia Sola, Hon. Carmel Sepuloni, Shaun Tomai, Liana Manu, Nick Leggett, Greg Pert.

– Nick Leggett, CEO, Road Transport Forum

New Minister of Transport, new opportunities

If you follow politics, either at home or internationally, the last few weeks have proven somewhat of a bonanza.

The New Zealand election result – and to a lesser degree the US one – will have a far-reaching impact on our road transport industry. The brewing international impact of COVID-19 could materialise via economic shocks, which will undoubtedly surprise us in 2021. As such, it will be vital that a strong supply chain is understood and supported by government to ensure the security of freight to reach its destination.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced her new cabinet at the start of the week. The RTF is very relieved to see that the Green Party will have no role in transport. In fact, former Associate Minister Julie-Anne Genter will not have any ministerial responsibility in the new government.

Phil Twyford is no longer the Minister of Transport and the portfolio has been passed to Michael Wood, a first-time minister and MP for Mt Roskill in Auckland. Minister Wood has given an early indication that he has a pragmatic view about roading projects (such as being open minded on the construction of a new Mount Victoria tunnel in Wellington, which was previously opposed by the Green Party).

If we look at the state of the nation from the Government’s perspective, they have to build infrastructure fast, and that will have to include roads.

On behalf of the industry, we have been in contact with the new minister this week. In our briefing paper we have outlined the contribution of the road transport industry to the New Zealand economy. We have pointed out that trucks are a key part of meeting the freight task, even if you are keen on trains, as the government has indicated it is. The convenience of door to door delivery, the resilience offered by road transport and the time sensitivity around the need to deliver many goods continues to put road transport in pole position.

We want the Government to work more closely with our industry in recognition of the contribution operators make keeping our economy moving. We would like the Government to prioritise development of a freight strategy for New Zealand. Such a strategy would recognise the importance of the supply chain and how to keep it secure by setting high level principles to guide transport investment. We must build “freight literacy” among the public and decision-makers. Developing a strategy could be a start to achieving this. 

We also want to see more transparency about where the National Land Transport Fund is spent.

Industry operators (heavy vehicles) contribute almost a $1 billion per annum through Road User Charges. It is obvious this fund has been “dipped into” by the Government for things other than road building and maintenance. We can only speculate about how much money has gone into light rail, KiwiRail and of course those cycle lanes. Meanwhile, our highways and roads have become more dilapidated, which has led to increased costs for operators via repairs and maintenance.

We have requested partnership with the Government on our driver shortage challenges. The RTF surveyed a statistically significant proportion of our industry this year (over 600 operators) about their experiences of a shortage of drivers. The survey found that 37% of operators had at least one truck parked up due to not having enough drivers. The industry is taking the initiative by starting our traineeship Te ara ki tua Road to success, but we do need support from Government to assist us with important components such as a more fit-for-purpose licensing system to ensure we maximise success.

– Nick Leggett, CE, Road Transport Forum