The freight and logistics industry have experienced peaks and troughs during the coronavirus pandemic, with much of the sector busier than ever coping with demand surges and panic buying in the early phases, and other parts experiencing a downturn with much of the economy in hibernation.
We caught up with the CEO of the Victorian Transport Association (VTA), Peter Anderson, to discuss the industry’s response to COVID-19 and other issues.
The VTA has been advocating for the interests of the transport industry and freight and logistics operators for over 100 years and is the leading employer group industry association for Victorian and national freight operators. Peter Anderson has been at the helm of the Association for the past six years and prior to that worked in senior industry roles for four decades, including as CEO of Scott’s Transport.
Peter says the transport industry responded magnificently to the twin crises of the past summer’s bushfires and of course the onset of COVID-19 and the disruption and devastation it has caused to the global economy. The Association advocated early on for regulatory and legislative changes designed to help freight operators navigate the pandemic, as well as to ensure supply chains continued to flow freely and efficiently so that consumers continued to have access to essential goods.
In a practical sense, the most visible impacts of this were uniform relaxation of curfews on heavy vehicles, enabling supermarkets to stock shelves and replenish goods 24/7, helping to mitigate the extreme demand shortages experienced early in the pandemic. The Association also advocated for state and federal government support measures, such as the instant asset write-off provision that has incentivised operators to invest in capital equipment such as trailers and prime movers.
The VTA is also running monthly surveys to assess how operators are faring during the pandemic, with the first survey reporting members are buoyant about recovery. Among the key findings of the first COVID-19 Industry Insights sentiment study, almost half of members (46%) expect international trade to increase over the next four months and just one-third of respondents (32%) indicated their staffing levels had changed due to COVID-19 over the last three months. Our second survey – conducted in June – revealed even greater optimism, with more operators indicating they’d be investing in their people and businesses over the next six months despite economic headwinds.
The VTA is a vocal advocate for heavy vehicle licensing reform to improve the competency and safety of drivers and to help attract new drivers to address the current shortage. The Association runs an eight-day intensive Driver Delivery training program in conjunction with Armstrong Driver Trainer that ensures job readiness and helps place candidates in transport jobs. The course is seen as a model for future licensing reforms, with the VTA leading a review of the Victorian heavy vehicle licensing system it is hoped the state government will soon adopt.
The transport industry runs on very thin margins so identifying ways of containing costs occupies a significant amount of time for the Association. The VTA is working on a project to develop a consistent and overarching approach to cost modelling within the transport industry and has successfully advocated state and federal transport ministers to freeze the Road User Charge freight operators pay in response to COVID-19.
Attaining productivity and efficiency gains for operators is another area the VTA and Peter are passionate about, with the Association supporting the Performance-Based Standards (PBS) scheme for its ability to help operators achieve higher productivity and safety through innovative and optimised vehicle design. The VTA is keen to align infrastructure planning with growth in the PBS, which is in keeping with the stringent safety standards and infrastructure standards PBS vehicles must meet to ensure they fit the existing road network.
Additionally, Peter is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, contributing to a number of Boards and industry committees.
Away from the office Peter is an avid golfer, skier, and sailor, and has completed numerous Sydney and Melbourne to Hobart yacht races and competed for Olympic selection in yachting. Actively involved with children’s education, musical and sporting interests, Peter is also a Life Member of his local Football Club.