Opinion: A sense of inevitability

By: Rob McKay

The industry’s weakness is on show and hunters are circling

Opinion: A sense of inevitability
'They failed to lead and they failed to plan and they were rewarded in their future'


And so it begins. It only took a matter of months for the ‘infrastructure surcharge’, which those cunning stevedores decided container haulage firms would have to pay to do their jobs, proliferated.

Now two other firms, Price & Speed and ANJ Container Services, both relative minnows compared with Qube’s stevedoring subsidiary Patrick and stevedore DP World, have joined what could well be a feeding frenzy.

Anyone in the trucking industry still wondering why ATN has taken such a keen interest in the container haulage sector’s recent travails should take time to mull over the implications here.

They should consider the issue as on a par with state governments singling trucking out for special costs treatment for new road infrastructure aimed primarily at the myriad of voting motorists who the politicians and bureaucrat infrastructure planners have failed so comprehensively over the decades.

They failed to lead and they failed to plan and they were rewarded in their failure and subsequent retirements.

Now the financially bitter fruits of that failure are ripening into an injection of more costs into the supply chain that must somehow be passed on down the line.

Some tell ATN that this sort of thing actually makes the job of doing so easier, as public knowledge makes the cause of the increased costs that much more obvious and transparent.

The hope here is that it will be passed down the line to the consumers (aren’t we all?) who are being screwed almost as much as the haulage firms that are the reluctant bearers the extra costs. This is little short of a conspiracy against them by government, financiers and certain businesses.

For the trucking firms, it’s a double whammy in that, along with having to swallow such portions that they can’t pass on, they have the burden of processing the charges where they can.

So far, despite energetic attempts by under-powered state representative bodies and outgunned supply chain services actors, those bearing the brunt have been politically friendless.

Tougher still, the industry’s impotence, born of a lack of cohesion and discipline due in no small part to its inherent structure and variety, is being put into sharp relief.

This can only be an encouragement to player that wishes to take advantage.

Æsop has a fable about this sort of thing that’s worth dwelling on.

A lion used to prowl about a field in which four oxen used to dwell. Many a time he tried to attack them; but whenever he came near they turned their tails to one another, so that whichever way he approached them he was met by the horns of one of them. At last, however, they fell a-quarrelling among themselves, and each went off to pasture alone in a separate corner of the field. Then the Lion attacked them one by one and soon made an end of all four.

Read it and weep.

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