Industry Issues, Transport Features

Inside the agenda of the 2024 VTA State Conference

VTA CEO Peter Anderson elaborates on his vision for what he hopes this year’s VTA state conference will achieve for Australia’s transport and logistics industry

The Victorian Transport Association (VTA) State Conference has seen road transport industry members and other bodies, including the National Road Transport Association (NatRoad) and the Transport Workers Union (TWU), come together and discuss issues within the road transport industry.  

This year, delegates will arrive once again at Phillip Island’s Silverwater Resort in just over three weeks’ time for the annual event. With sessions spanning from industrial relations to technology, VTA CEO Peter Anderson says attendees are set to be kept on their feet. 

“We’re one of many associations that do these state conferences, and we always try to make them relevant but different,” Anderson told ATN. 

The theme of this year’s conference is Future Freight Landscapes. Anderson says the transport industry isn’t prone to issues of the future such as technology, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity. 

There will be 33 speakers presenting this year including federal transport and infrastructure assistant minister Carol Brown and Victorian roads, freight and ports minister Melissa Horne. 

WA Senator Glenn Sterle will kick off proceedings at the pre-conference dinner after speaking alongside Senator Bridget McKenzie at last year’s VTA State Conference. Anderson says it was an entertaining discussion between the two that helped give the industry confidence that it was on the right path. 

“To get any ministers along is big because it means they’ve stretched their schedules to be able to fit this in,” Anderson says. 

“We’re delighted to have these ministers attending and it just shows how highly they regard the VTA and the industry as a whole.” 

NHVR CEO Sal Pettroccitto is set to speak at this year’s conference. Image: VTA

Horne and Brown will be next to follow in the conference’s ‘scene setters’ session on the first morning. Among the session’s speakers is National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) CEO Sal Petroccitto, Anderson himself and Australian Signals Directorate first assistant director general Derek Bopping. Bopping’s knowledge and insight in the cybersecurity space, according to Anderson, will play a key role in helping the industry counteract any issues in the years to come 

Another discussion will see Anderson wear his Australian Road Transport Industrial Association national secretary hat and talk on the recent Closing Loopholes bill amendment alongside fellow legislation advocates in NatRoad CEO Warren Clark and TWU strategic campaigner Jack Boutros. 

Skills and training also form part of the second day’s agenda, with Industry Skills CEO Paul Walsh and Armstrongs Driver Training CEO Craig Nicholson among the session’s speakers. Anderson says an emphasis needs to be placed on getting skilled training drivers into the industry, particularly 18-year-olds. 

“The whole emphasis of training is to get 18-year-olds straight out of school and into our industry, but keep in mind that not all young people can drive a truck,” Anderson says. 

“There has to be a process where they’re screened, assessed and, if needed, rejected from the training, because it’s not like getting a car license.” 

The VTA has already begun working on implementing a licencing and training process. Anderson says it has recently put in a request to the NHVR and Heavy Vehicle Safety Initiative to ensure overseas and young drivers are up to speed with the necessary skills required to work in the trucking industry. 

The final day of the conference will see discussions take place on infrastructure productivity, with West Gate Tunnel and North East Link project members speaking at the session. Transport Accident Commission head of road safety Samantha Cookburn and National Transport Commission CEO Michael Hopkins will also attend the safety and environment, sustainability and governance session. 

This year will also be the third consecutive conference without any decarbonisation sessions, with the VTA set to hold a third Alternate Fuels Summit later on in 2024. Anderson says the summit comes after the VTA decided to work through the industry’s decarbonisation process separately two years ago. 

With plenty on the agenda, Anderson says he wants to see transport companies bring their young members along to the conference to help provide the transport industry with new ideas and perspectives. 

“We’re thinking three-to-10 years ahead about our capital costs, the environment which we’ll be operating in and how we can ensure we’re productive, efficient and safe,” Anderson says. 

“That’s hard to do because we’re unsure of the future, what the environment’s going to be like and what hurdles are going to be put in front of us. 

“Conferences like this one help educate and help give people confidence in their decision-making processes. That’s the outcome we’re looking for.” 

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