Smart choice as RFNSW looks to challenges

By: Mark Goyszyk

Leigh Smart takes wheel from Jonathan Luff as industry body tackles issues

Smart choice as RFNSW looks to challenges
Leigh Smart addresses the conference


The road freight industry in New South Wales has enjoyed recent wins but still faces significant hurdles into the future around safety and viability, delegates at the Road Freight NSW (RFNSW) conference have heard.

The occasion was also marked by a changing of the guard as Formula Chemicals boss Leigh Smart succeeds current chair and Border Express director Jonathan Luff.

RFNSW CEO Simon O’Hara hails both and outlines what issues his organisation – and by extension operators in the state – have been dealing with and have enjoyed positive results from in the past 12 months.

Of the important developments was the increase of mass limits for the container freight sector, while another was the change of speed limit laws around emergency vehicles were drivers don’t need to slow down on 90km/h-plus roads.

"It was one of the items requiring a fix and we delivered," O’Hara says.

Of the projects in the pipeline, O’Hara wants to see freight employers have access to more information on driver licences: "We need the latest information that drivers are up to date and performing with company."

Another concern for O’Hara is: "How do we fix empty container issues around charging?"

He notes RFNSW has sought improvements in that space and has made submissions to empty container review to ensure "equity is restored to the system".

Other areas of attention include:

  • over-size over-mass (OSOM) permit system that is quick, efficient and intuitive
  • continue to advocate for high-performance vehicles
  • working with TAFE NSW for courses specific to road freight
  • heavy vehicle ramps being reinstated at the port
  • engaging with Transurban around tolling for operators.

Luff, stepping down after a tenure that spanned six state roads ministers, maintains that safety and operator viability is still at the forefront of his advocacy efforts.

Read how backers viewed the proposed  formation of RFNSW, here

"Ten years ago, road freight was a dangerous industry," Luff says.

"As a result, there has been an improvement in safety but not significantly less deaths as the freight task continues to grow.

"We have raised our responsibility but there is still a lot to be done – we need to strive for a zero road toll.

"We cannot accept these tragedies as just part of the industry."

Also 10 years ago, the industry was coming off the Global Financial Crisis – it is a $123 billion per annum industry but profitability is still a challenge, Luff notes.

"This inequality of power between buyers and sellers must balance out some day," he says, which is why it is vital industry continues to make progress in areas of technology, efficiency and industrial relations.

"Safety and viability are intertwined but we can’t have the technology if we can’t afford it."

He notes industry, authorities and regulators may not always see eye to eye but "we share a common purpose: a safe and viable industry with a level playing field for all operators".

Smart agrees, saying operators should not complain about regulators and bureaucrats introducing legislation if they are not involved in the engagement process.

He notes in leading his company and as the new chair of RFNSW his responsibility includes "to protect the driver – I thoroughly believe we have to bring our drivers home safely".

In particular, he supports traineeships or apprenticeships to safeguard the future of trucking and bring the average age of drivers down from 57 – starting a scheme that can also "get insurance companies on board".

"Truck drivers are looked at pretty poorly – that’s not the way anymore, they are highly skilled professional people."

"We’ve got so support our industry and bring these young kids in."


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