Supply chain pressure adds to Christmas stress

It may not matter if you were naughty or nice this year – though the opportunities to be naughty would have been limited – as Santa may not be able to fulfill your Christmas present wishes.

Even those well-organised people who have already started Christmas shopping, might find they can’t source the presents they want for under the tree if those products are coming from overseas.

The impacts of Covid-19 are wreaking havoc on global supply chains and New Zealand, being a long way from anywhere else and without the buying might of the bigger markets like Europe and the USA, is in danger of being left out in the cold.

I have been reading for weeks commentaries about global supply chains being near breaking point and containers being in short supply, and hearing in New Zealand that there are serious issues as shipping lines cancel sailings here to service more lucrative routes.

The nature of our export driven economy is if nothing is coming in, it’s going to make it hard for those wanting to send out the primary products and goods we sell around the world. While some companies can charter their own ships, not all our exporters are in that position.

Imports and exports come and go by sea and air, but with our border closed by the Government, there are only about one-sixth of the previous international flights servicing New Zealand.

Paying passengers are a trickle, and they used to subsidise the cost of freight on planes – the perishable goods like our seafood, flowers, and fruit. Air freight is significantly reduced and considerably more expensive. It is currently heavily subsidised by the Government, but that can’t go on forever.

Road freight is a critical part of the global supply chain and for our part, if imports and exports can’t come into the country or get out, our industry will take a hit.

We believe there are solutions and that those in the supply chain are better to find them than Government, which doesn’t seem to have a good grasp on the urgency of this issue, or how it will impact the country.

The Government can talk all they like about New Zealanders taking jobs and making things here; but that just isn’t going to happen at the pace required to meet market demands.

Also, much of our trading arrangements require that we take imported goods so that we can export goods – give and take.

We have asked the Government to urgently turn its attention to the supply chain, but we are not holding our breath. We have real concerns that without that understanding of the supply chain, we will be in the same position with any potential Covid-19 vaccines that we were with distribution of the flu vaccines earlier this year. Government pushed for people to get vaccinated but then found its own distribution network couldn’t match the demand. It is estimated flu kills about 500 people a year in New Zealand, which is about two percent of all deaths.

We suggest you be patient and creative with your Christmas shopping, and expect prices to reflect the stress on the supply chain. And don’t bank on Santa making it here – our border is closed after all.

– Nick Leggett, CEO, Road Transport Forum

When no, means no

There are shades of outgoing US President Donald Trump’s behaviour in those behind the Vote Yes lobby to legalise recreational cannabis in New Zealand. Neither seem to be able to accept the outcome of democratic elections.

Sure, the cannabis referendum result was close, but the No vote won the majority of 50.7%. Most parties, including Labour which is now the majority party in Government, said prior to the election that they would consider the result of the referendum to be binding.

Some of the Yes lobby will try and relitigate the referendum result. They’ve already started the allegations of too much money on the other lobbying side, and misinformation. They might want to look in the mirror on some of that; just saying it doesn’t make it true.

We just know from our engagement – which didn’t cost anything and was not to tell people how to vote, but to suggest they be aware the legislation was not complete, medicinal cannabis was already legal, and there were unexplored, unintended consequences – how well-armed the Yes Vote lobby was with social media warriors. Much of the information they pushed was completely incorrect. And let’s just say, they weren’t kind.

The referendum result is a success for the RTF as we worked hard to ensure people were aware of some of those unintended consequences of legalising recreational cannabis, including the impact on road safety and the implications for workplaces. These were the concerns of those we represent.

We know New Zealand has a problem with cannabis use, but legalising it was not going to help those who have to manage workplace health and safety within pretty strict laws, or those drivers for whom the road is their workplace.

None of the policy work around the unintended consequences had been done before putting the Cannabis Legislation and Control Bill to the vote. That left too many unanswered questions. People like a bit of certainty around big decision making and it just wasn’t there with this Bill.

More deaths on our roads are caused by drug-drivers than purely drunk drivers. We think the first step to doing something about that is to give the Police powers and tools to roadside test drivers for drugs in their system.

We hope that one of the first pieces of legislation the new Government turns its attention to is the Land Transport (Drug Driving) Amendment Bill, which was introduced in July this year.

This new law will allow Police to test if drivers are under the influence of drugs, just as they do for alcohol. We will certainly support this Bill as it goes through the proper processes to become law, which were delayed by the election.

While our industry has strict protocols around drug and alcohol testing, we cannot account for the other road users that share the road with professional drivers. We rely on the Police to do that; we need them to have the right tools to keep the road safe.

For the record, the total number of votes received in the cannabis referendum was 2,908,071 – 1,406,973 Yes and 1,474,635 No. There were 26,463 votes where the voter has not clearly indicated the option for which they wished to vote.

– Nick Leggett, CEO, Road Transport Forum

An election like no other

Like the year 2020 generally, it felt like New Zealanders just wanted the election to be over and done with. That probably goes for the politicians too!

A weariness had set in over recent weeks, possibly because most people felt the overall result was ‘baked in’ and a forgone conclusion. Most of us knew there would be a Labour government in some form. The questions remained though, would they need the Greens and would Winston sneak over the line?

Full credit to Jacinda Ardern and her team, they won big. Kiwis recognised the hard work of the Government during the COVID crisis and they opted for stability. It is true that we will need stability as, in the view of the RTF, the worst of the crisis is ahead of us with the economic challenges we will face over the next few years.

Whether the PM chooses to enter into some kind of arrangement with the Greens or the Maori Party is open for discussion for a little while longer, although it has clearly been signalled that this will not be a coalition government.

It probably isn’t any secret that the RTF won’t be disappointed to see the Green Party out of transport. Their lack of understanding around the movement of freight, let alone a blatant antagonism towards roading, is palpable. That will be part of the PM’s balancing act.  

Of course, we are keen to work with whoever is selected transport minister; be it the incumbent Phil Twyford, who we enjoy engaging with, or somebody new. The opportunity for a transport sector accord, as suggested by Twyford and promoted by RTF, would be a really constructive way of partnering with the government around the challenges we face, including with workforce, skills, regulations and health and safety.  

Labour does need to do more than it did in its first term to meet business halfway. We are concerned with their proposed agenda when it comes to employment legislation; doing away with the owner driver or contractor driver model and forcing rules that will make it harder for our industry to keep delivering for New Zealand’s economic wellbeing.

We will keep up the fight for better roads. We know industry can have an impact here, given that our recent calls for an increase in the roading maintenance budget resulted in the Government increasing the amount spent by $100 million per annum for the next five years.

Finally, like all of the private sector, the road transport industry requires infrastructure investment to be delivered, not just announced. We will be eager champions of the roll-out of projects, both roading and others, as they will improve the ability of trucking operators to go about their work on safer roads, and will also provide work for industry members supporting the construction sector.

I consider that this election brings the road transport industry a lot of opportunities. We have a chance to put our renewed case, to both the Government and the public – as neither group understands as well as they could – what we do every day to keep New Zealand moving. We also have the opportunity to work alongside officials and politicians to propose opportunities for improved regulatory rules, safety outcomes and to build our workforce capability and supply through the Te ara ki tua Road to Success traineeship programme.

RTF will brief the incoming Minister of Transport on the key industry issues and I’ll report on the content of that briefing in the coming weeks. It will help set our agenda over the coming parliamentary term.     

  • Nick Leggett, CE, Road Transport Forum

Truck driver hero celebrated

It’s fair to say that 2020 has not been a great year for many people, with Covid-19 bringing fear, anxiety and lockdowns around the world.

So, it’s good to know there are some local heroes out there focused on good works and keeping us safe.

And after this annus horribilis, it was good to have something to celebrate last week when I presented the award for the Castrol Truck Driver Hero to Deane Rodgers at an event in Cromwell in the South Island (pictured above).

Each year, this award goes to a truck driver who has gone above and beyond during the course of their normal work day to help people and keep them safe, often at their own risk.

Summerland Express Freight driver Deane Rodgers is a deserving recipient of the award and it was great to spend the evening with him, his partner Karen, and the Summerland team who came to the event to support him.

Deane’s quick thinking prevented a potentially large fire, but put him at great risk at the same time.

Travelling through South Canterbury earlier this year, with a load of infant formula destined for Christchurch, Deane looked in his mirrors and saw his trailer on fire.

He looked around him at the tinder-dry fields of wheat crops and grass, noted the strong wind blowing, and thought it was too dangerous to pull over to the side of the road and risk a bigger fire.

He knew the Makikihi Country Hotel was about five kilometres ahead and it had space to park a flaming truck so he took the calculated risk and bravely drove there; risking his own life. He rung the fire brigade to meet him, ignored all the other road users trying to warn him, and made it to safety for all. Farmers in the area have thanked him for preventing what could have been a catastrophic fire.

Deane put others before himself and used his 33 years of experience driving trucks to pull off an incredibly risky manoeuvre. As a professional driver, he knew what was possible. It was a great pleasure to thank Deane in person for what he did.

We’re a bit biased at the Road Transport Forum in that we see the good work truck drivers do every day in keeping the supply chain well-oiled so New Zealanders get all the food and goods they need. We know they help out on the road wherever they can. And we’ve done some research that shows many New Zealanders agree with us that truck drivers are skilled, safety conscious, professional and considerate.

That’s good for us to hear, because there is strong anti-truck sentiment from the current Government that doesn’t seem to be evidence-based. We hope the next Government sees the value truck drivers bring to the all-important supply chain.

– Nick Leggett, CE, Road Transport Forum

Where’s the $1.4 billion for safer roads?

The new standing joke in the Road Transport Forum’s (RTF) office is that we will receive an email from Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) saying, “Dear Nick, we have reduced the speed limit across all State Highways in New Zealand to 80km.”

Of course, they wouldn’t be this direct because it would create massive outrage. Instead, it is happening by stealth, empowered by the politics of the Road to Zero policy which has been directed by Transport Associate Minister Julie Anne Genter.

The idea that you can lower speed limits and install rumble strips and median barriers as the way to improve safety, in lieu of safe new roads, was always fanciful. However, there has been an effective delivery of lower speed limits in an incremental way across the nation. We have pushed back, along with National Road Carriers, NZ Trucking and Road Transport Association NZ. Slowing road transport down will slow the economy down, and we can least afford that at this point in our Covid-19 battered economy.

So, on the install side, how is NZTA going? In December 2018 a $1.4 billion Safe Network Programme for New Zealand’s highest risk roads was announced by Ministers Phil Twyford and Julie Anne Genter.

The Safe Network Programme was going to make 870 kilometres of high volume, high-risk State Highways safer by 2021 with improvements like median and side barriers, rumble strips, and shoulder widening.

The programme was going target an estimated $600 to $700 million of state highway safety improvements and $700 to $800 million of local road safety improvements. Once complete, the improvements were expected to prevent 160 deaths and serious injuries every year.

Two years later, do you think we are able to find out what money has been spent and where? Have we seen a corresponding reduction in deaths as a result of what has been spent to date?

This was a big-ticket announcement and it was heralded as being the major part of the Government’s roading agenda. We have not been able to find evidence the money has been spent and nor can we find a project report, or overview.

However, we have been able to find evidence on the state of our roads. Many industry members give industry associations regular feedback. We see the physical signs of poor-quality roads all over the country. We see the huge 55% growth in maintenance and repair costs for intercity fleets between 2015-2019 – as per the Waikato University operator comparison report. And then we also stumble across NZTA’s own self-assessment.

Their recently published National Pavement Condition Report showed that between 2008-09 and 2018-19, the volume of resurfacing work completed was 33 percent below NZTA’s own targets for the maintenance of a safe network. Over the same period, the volume of foundation replacement work was a whopping 50 percent below NZTA targets.

Since 2015, the proportion of the road network not meeting the minimum standard for skid resistance has more than doubled to over 500 lane kilometres, the average seal life remaining has reduced by 50 percent, and four out of five measures of roughness and rutting have got worse by an average of 14 percent.

Even for those that don’t fully understand the science behind road engineering, and I count myself in that category, these are extremely concerning figures.

It looks as though NZTA can’t deliver on a $1.4 billion new safety programme, that should be two-thirds completed by now. Worse, for our industry, they can’t deliver on basic road maintenance. That costs all motorists in terms of wear and tear – and safety.

When we write to brief the incoming Minister of Transport about industry issues in a month’s time, NZTA performance on roads will be a key issue that we raise. Be assured, we will continue to raise it until road transport operators start to see the positive impact of the additional funds that have apparently been directed into road maintenance in the last couple of years.

– Nick Leggett, CEO, Road Transport Forum

Training the road to success

Covid-19 has changed the way we do business and given many people pause to think about the work they do.

School leavers are looking at an uncertain future of work, and many of those who were in work have seen the industries they worked in disappear and their jobs go with it. Those in work also face uncertainty and might be thinking about training and gaining qualifications to secure their place.

Even though we face the worst economic headwinds in many people’s lifetime, it is a good time for businesses to think about their future workforce and for workers to consider what they really want to do.

The Road Transport Forum (RTF) did a workforce survey with our road freight operators that actually coincided with New Zealand’s Covid-19 full lockdown. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of respondents identified Covid-19 and/or the economic downturn as the biggest threat to their business.

But the survey also showed 37 percent of industry operators reported a shortage of drivers. Against a backdrop of about 25 percent of drivers over 60, it is estimated that within five years about 20 percent of our current driving workforce will need to be replaced.

Through good times and bad, there are always trucks on the road. People wouldn’t have survived Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions without goods moving through the supply chain on trucks and being delivered direct to their door.

Truck drivers are often the unsung heroes of disasters. They just keep delivering – food, medical supplies to save lives, and other goods that keep many businesses going.

We believe now is the time for trucking operators to start thinking about their workforce in the next five years. It is also time for those workers who have always liked the idea of driving a big piece of finely tuned machinery and experiencing the freedom of the road versus the restrictions of an office or working from home, to give truck driving a go. It is an industry that welcomes diversity so no one should feel excluded.

The RTF is launching Te ara ki tua Road to Success, a truck driving traineeship founded on support and qualifications that takes a new approach to training and employment in the industry. We are working with government agencies including the Ministry of Social Development, Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, Tertiary Education Commission and Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), as well as the industry training organisation MITO, and iwi and labour supply groups.

Te ara ki tua Road to Success, will mesh on-the-job practical training with theoretical components leading to a range of stackable qualifications and employment in the industry. We aim to provide operators with the support to take on new, inexperienced staff to train, and trainees with a guarantee they will have paid work while they train to gain formal qualifications.

The traineeship will cater to three streams of employee – new entrants, career changers, and existing personnel – with each part of the programme specifically designed to meet the needs of the employer and employee.

Qualifications are important to provide those already in the industry with a sustainable career pathway, as well as making the industry attractive to those who are starting out in the workforce, or want a change in career.

Microcredentials, which are NZQA endorsed, are being developed to provide a bridge to the existing industry qualifications. This is to ensure there are no barriers to those who might want to enter the industry.

More than half the respondents to our survey indicated they would be interested in taking on a trainee. With that in mind, in October, Road to Success representative Graham Sheldrake and RTF’s Mark Ngatuere are taking to the road to present and get feedback from road freight transport operators on the design of the programme. I encourage employers to come along to the session near you and give your feedback, and maybe even sign up for a trainee.

The roadshow team are going from Invercargill to Whangarei – check the schedule and how to sign up for a session here. I look forward to seeing you and hearing your thoughts.

– Nick Leggett, CEO, Road Transport Forum

Rail not the great hope for safer roads

It was interesting to see the Government’s response to our recent request to spend some of the “shovel ready” Covid-19 cash on urgent road repairs for unsafe roads was to promote rail for moving freight.

Together with the Automobile Association, Association of Consultants and Engineers, Civil Contractors NZ, Employers and Manufacturers Association, and Infrastructure NZ, the RTF has written to Ministers and spoken with their representatives about the dire state of New Zealand roads. This has generated plenty of media and public debate this week, with the six organisations representing a broad range of interests, including private car users.

Speaking to RNZ, Transport Minister Phil Twyford said: “Our record investments in rail will help take pressure off our roads by moving more freight to rail. It’s going to take more than a few years to undo a decade of neglect.”

In the same RNZ piece he said the government agreed there had been underinvestment for a decade prior to 2017 so had increased highway maintenance spending on average by 36 percent. If re-elected, I would up that another 17 percent.

Yet early in the first-term of this Labour-led coalition government he said: “there has been an over-investment in roads and motorways for decades in this country”.

We hope the increased spending promise means he’s had a change of heart from his earlier views. The six organisations that have asked for urgent road repairs have all been hearing from our members what damages and costs they are incurring because of sub-standard and unsafe road surfaces.

The pro-rail brigade actually believes that in a long, skinny country with 93,000 kms of road and 4,000 kms of rail tracks, that rail can make a dent in the effectiveness, convenience and efficiency of road freight. This is despite all evidence to the contrary. Even in European countries with vast and efficient railways, freight movers pick road over rail.

In New Zealand, the National Freight Demand Study, commissioned by the Ministry of Transport and released in October 2019, showed that freight delivered by road was 93% of the freight task, up 16% since 2012, while rail was 5.6% of the freight task, down 17% since 2012.

It is also interesting to note, again from Ministry of Transport data, the tonnage of dairy being transported on the rail network has dropped from about 3.9 million tonnes in 2013 to 2.3 million tonnes at the beginning of this year.

Ultimately, the market will decide which is the best mode for transporting their goods. Road offers door-to-door delivery, even in the remote parts of the country; is more resilient in weather events, natural disasters, and Covid-19; and is reliable for time-sensitive perishable goods.

Only 3-7 percent of the road freight task is contestable by rail. Conversely, most rail freight is contestable by road, except maybe coal transport across the Southern Alps – trains are good for that because of the weight of the coal.

Roads are the lifeblood of the economy. All road users pay for them and we all benefit from them.

Over $2 billion in taxes (petrol tax and road user charges) is collected each year for the National Land Transport Fund to fund roads. But this is now being used to fund modes of transport that make no contribution. This cross-subsidisation is at the expense of roads and hits consumers in the back pocket.

The truth is that we don’t need rail, or public transport, over roads. We need a good balance of all three. RTF supports public transport and rail, particularly rail for public transport.

What we have an issue with is the defunding of roads for pet projects in rail that cannot provide a viable return on investment, or the efficiency, effectiveness, reliability and cost benefits of road freight.

The Government is slowing down the economy by not spending on roads. Slowing down movement of goods, particularly essentials such as food and medicines, impacts on the cost of living for all New Zealanders. Every delay in delivery costs someone.

– Nick Leggett, CEO, Road Transport Forum

The road out of this mess

How do we get out of this mess? Billions of dollars have been spent by the New Zealand Government on Covid-19. That cannot go on for the years it might take to either have a viable vaccine, or to learn to live with this and other epidemics.

We’ve heard a lot from the Government about investing in infrastructure to boost the economy and getting started on “shovel ready” projects to counter rapidly increasing unemployment and financial pain. Big announcements need to be backed by delivery.

The visual that comes with the term “shovel ready” is people behind shovels building something. The reality seems to be a bit of a stretch from that – projects have to go through all the consenting processes and there have to be skilled people behind those shovels. With a closed border, getting workers is an issue.

Together with five like-minded organisations with an interest in the state of New Zealand’s roads, we wrote to Government Ministers and suggested they could add road maintenance projects to the “shovel ready” list. The advantages of these projects are that they can start immediately; provide value for money; enable job creation; and offer scalability, geographic coverage, and year-round work.

All the organisations have been hearing from our members that the poor conditions on New Zealand roads are becoming a greater cost. It’s not only a cost to businesses, but also to road safety. People die on unsafe roads.

The road maintenance programme over the past decade can be characterised by under-investment and declining levels of service on both the state highway network and local roads. The decrease in spending has meant that the volume of resurfacing and foundation replacement work has been significantly below the targets Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency sets for network sustainability. Foundation replacements were 50 percent below target for the period.

A study conducted by Waikato University this year for the RTF, showed transport operators have had a 55 percent increase in their repairs and maintenance costs between 2015 and 2020. This is largely due to poor road conditions causing damage to trucks. Interestingly, trucking operators have had a five percent increase in road user charges (RUCs) in eight of the past 10 years. Essentially, they keep paying more, but getting less value from roads.

At a meeting this week, Ministers’ representatives told our group – which includes Civil Contractors New Zealand, EMA, Infrastructure New Zealand, AA, and the Association of Consulting and Engineering – that there had been a 36 percent increase in road maintenance over two years. But that is not what road users are seeing. We are talking about road surface conditions, not the barriers and other trimmings that have been put in place in the name of safety.

Based on road maintenance cost and outputs data for recent years, we estimate that an additional $300 million per annum will be required for the next three years to return the network to an appropriate standard.

Our plea to have the ready shovels applied to road maintenance fell on deaf ears. This is despite there being an unprecedented length of the road network currently operating in a sub-standard condition.

We have also been told to wait for the release of the draft Government Policy Statement (GPS) on Land Transport. The RTF submitted on this and said: The 2021 GPS policy was written for a more settled economic climate and we wonder how much of it will continue to be valid within the foreseeable future.

Covid-19 has changed the shape of things and Government Ministers and their policy-makers need to be re-thinking how and where money is spent to deliver infrastructure projects, based on sound economic principles, that will enable economic recovery.

This might require agility governments are not known for. But there is too much at stake here to get this wrong. Roads have played a critical role in the response to Covid-19, getting essential goods moved around the country. Roads will continue to be the base of economic growth for years to come, getting exports to ports and airports to earn money for New Zealand, and moving New Zealanders to and from work. Road spending needs to be commensurate with the task.

– Nick Leggett, CEO, Road Transport Forum

Ask questions in the weeks leading up to the election

A month is a long time in politics and with New Zealand’s general election moved from 19 September to 17 October, we are seeing more of the impacts of the response strategy the Government has adopted to Covid-19.

That response strategy will impact New Zealand’s economy for years to come. I acknowledge New Zealand is not alone in that, but this is New Zealand’s general election and we are voting on the situation here.

Asking questions about the development and implementation of the Covid-19 response strategy, and whether or not there is a recovery strategy, should not be seen as an attack or criticism of the current Government, rather as our democratic right.

We cannot go into a general election without asking questions of all the parties and candidates putting themselves up for election, or we come perilously close to being like countries I never thought we would be compared to.

New Zealand has adopted a worrying tone against those who ask questions of the current Government regarding Covid-19, but we must be able to have open debate and all remain friends.

This is an election like no other in most of our lifetimes – those of us born post-World War 2. How we face Covid-19, particularly if there is never a cure or vaccination to prevent it, will shape the country for years to come.

The Road Transport Forum has put together an Election Manifesto – highlighting areas the road freight transport industry wants to see progress on by the next Government to enable the supply chain to operate at its best.

We put forward four questions to the five main parties and they have supplied written responses you can read on our website here. They cover Covid-19 and the economy, workforce, the environment, and the moves to legalise recreational cannabis use that will be voted on in via a referendum as part of the voting process. We urge you to read these responses from Labour, the Greens, New Zealand First, National and ACT, and continue discussions with your local candidates.

The RTF has been quite vocal about the Covid-19 response so far where it intersects with the supply chain. We thought the full Level 4 lockdown was bad, but then came Level 3 for Auckland only with a hard border to the north and south.

If the Government is learning as they go – that’s what the politicians say, anyway – they still have a lot to learn about how ports work, how goods are exported and imported, and generally, how the supply chain works. The problem is, they don’t seem to want to listen to people in the private sector who could sort a lot of issues out very quickly with their knowledge and expertise.

Pretty much everything you need, every day, comes to you on a truck. In fact, 93 percent of freight in New Zealand travels by road. We’ve seen the value of that as people have retreated to their homes in fear of Covid-19, or under Government instruction, and had everything delivered door-to-door.

To keep our economy moving we must have good roads. We are concerned that while there has been a lot of talk about building roads as a means to boost the New Zealand economy, we don’t believe there is the capability to contract and manage such projects within the New Zealand workforce. With our border closed indefinitely, how are we going to get the people needed to get these projects underway?

Many sectors are concerned about not being able to get people with the right expertise into the country to enable their businesses to keep running. This too, will have a significant economic impact if the primary sector, for example, can’t get people in to help with seasonal work and harvests.

With international tourism off the map, it’s our primary products we rely on to generate an income – dairy, meat, wood, fruit, wine and fish.

It will be very important for the supply chain moving forward that New Zealand doesn’t yo-yo in and out of highly restrictive Covid-19 response levels and that Government comes to the party on letting skilled workers into the country. We also need to see progress on border management that allows for movement to keep our economy going, and preferably growing.

A lot of businesses are limping along and it feels like there is no end in sight. We cannot accept that. There must be a plan and there must be consultation with real experts on that plan – not a whole lot more people at the top.

Now is the time to ask your questions of those who will shape our future for the next three years.

– Nick Leggett, CEO, Road Transport Forum

Private sector logistics expertise needed, now

We have a Covid-19 resurgence plan they said, and for 102 days New Zealanders breathed a sigh of relief and believed them. Even if they didn’t have a plan, 102 days was long enough to develop one, right?

If the past week is anything to go by, if we have been operating under a plan, I’d hate to see what they call chaos.

Sort out the port, they said. Great idea, everyone’s drinking more at the moment, where is that bottle of port I was gifted by a European diplomat one time? No, no, the sea port, you know, the one we don’t like and want to close or move because it makes cycling the waterfront difficult.

But all of the goods we need come through those ports and tens of thousands of workers are on and off the ports 24-7. And the Health Minister has said not to test well people because there’s such a demand on the testing regime; we can’t manage that in 48 hours.

Well we have to completely shut off Auckland, they said, that’s the plan – contain where the outbreak is, maybe throw some red-herrings about how it could have been transmitted like, frozen food, and get lots of uniformed people on the road borders.

But Auckland is responsible for 40 percent of the country’s economy, and food and essential supplies flow into/out/and through it. Closing off Auckland will cost 250 jobs a day. And what happens to Northland – it becomes an island? The food producing part of Auckland straddles the Waikato border – how’s that going to work?

For the trucking industry, instruction by the Government on two borders – sea and the borders containing Auckland under Covid-19 Level 3 response – have been the cause of confusion, concern and disruption to business. After the first half of the year and the total lockdown of the country, businesses are already struggling. They cannot sustain hit after hit when it appears there is no real plan.

It has been a frustrating week. The Government saw sense on the sea ports fairly quickly when it became apparent, they could not meet their own order. The road borders however, have shown how little is known about the flow of the supply chain and how ill equipped the government is to manage logistics.

Government has all the time and all the money. Projects frequently run over time and over budget. There is not the discipline that exists in the private sector where time is money. If people fail in the private sector, they are let go.

Throwing more people at the top and more military on the front line is not the answer. This Government has an aversion to business, but they need the expertise of people who have to bring in money to survive. It sharpens the senses and breeds efficiency.

People in the supply chain, such as those in the trucking industry, understand logistics.

Every day, they plan for people to load trucks and take goods all around New Zealand, within legally set timeframes for the amount of time they are allowed to drive and work.

Being a human chain, there are breakages when a person is sick, has an accident, gets stuck in traffic, etc. That break is pulled out of the rest of the chain, adjustments are made, and the flow continues. Food gets delivered to supermarkets, medical supplies get delivered to hospitals, shops and businesses get what they’ve ordered, households get moved, and New Zealanders get to enjoy a high standard of living.

The performance of the Auckland road border shows no logistical planning was undertaken. Rules are being adjusted daily. It’s make-it-up as you go. People can’t get to essential jobs without a full folder of paper work. We fail to understand why the Government is not reaching out to people who are expert in this work.

More people at the top will not fix this response. Rolling security guards and bringing in more military will not fix this. More people around the “working” table with expertise, pragmatism, calm-heads, logistics experience, and a cognisance of how much money companies are bleeding daily is what is needed, right now.

– Nick Leggett, CEO, Road Transport Forum