Jonathan Bhana-Thomson, Chief Executive, NZHHA
Getting the balance between regulation while allowing for innovation and efficient service to clients is the avenue that the NZ Heavy Haulage Association seeks to provide for industry members.
EXAMPLES LAST YEAR where the NZHHA sought to achieve greater definition of a balance between regulation, innovation and service were changes that came in mid-2015 around common-sense enforcement of weights in transportation, and the proactive promotion of changes that this association wants to see around main legislative rules for over dimension loads.
While the transport of loads that exceed normal dimension, or weight limits, are a small part of the road transport freight sector, large items moved are for clients that are spread right across the whole economy. Infrastructure developments, especially roading and the dairy sector, are areas that lead the industry in the transport of large indivisible items such as bridge beams and silos. These larger projects have often been in planning and development for years and are immune to the vagaries of the economy – for example the two-weekly change in the price of dairy products.
These days, New Zealand is much more integrated into the global market for commodities, and so the international price for items such as coal or dairy products will ultimately affect the demand by client companies working in these sectors for the transport of large items of equipment.
Less demand from areas such as mining and coal has impacted on the volume of large excavation and mining equipment needed to be shifted around the country, and this has impacted on specialised transport company members that service these sectors.
At the recent World Crane and Transport Summit held in the Netherlands, the CEO of transport and crane giant Mammoet, Jan Kleijn, outlined some of the current disruptive factors that were at work around the world. He mentioned lower oil prices, refugee crisis in Europe, and political issues associated with Russia as factors influencing economic growth worldwide. Then there are web-based disruptive technologies, such as Uber and Airbnb, that can disrupt the previous natural order of things. “Imagine if somebody started an Uber service for cranes and transport … a company without any assets,” he said.
New business models have the opportunity to challenge the regulatory framework that surrounds an industry, and we have already seen this with Uber successfully getting our Ministry of Transport to review the current rules around the taxi industry.
In the heavy haulage and overdimension transport sectors, the association is seeking improvements to our operating environment while, at the same time, challenging the rationale of those regulatory bodies that seek to add layers of red tape. Most of these arguments flux between efficiency and safety, and we believe that these aims are not opposed, but do need to be kept in balance with one another.
The end of 2015 saw a collection of incidents occur within the sector that raised concerns, both within the industry and within some of our regulatory bodies. The industry is facing these head on and will be a strong influence on the work programme for the association and its members in 2016. Progressions being scoped include better training regimes to ensure that best practice is spread right through the industry; better public education to ensure that members of the public are informed about out sector – and particularly about road risks. At the same time we wish to utilise various new forms of technology to enhance operations and information.
These ideas will be fed into the formal review of the Vehicle Dimensions and Mass Rule (VDAM), where appropriate, and also into other forms of best practice guidelines. We prefer guidelines rather than hard and fast rules, because specifying the rules makes change harder in the future.
The NZTA and the Ministry of Transport which are leading the VDAM Reform Project, are being responsive to the ideas put forward to the Rule from the Association, but this is only a small part of the scope of the project. The changes to general freight and high productivity trucks could mean small but significant improvements to the efficiency of general freight and transport across the industry – and all the sectors that are serviced.
Stakeholders from other sectors (wider than the normal transport industry) should consider the opportunity to contribute to the consultation process, due to close in February.
The association sees one of its roles is to develop, and have input into, various codes and best practice guides. With the increasing emphasis on health and safety there are opportunities for all industry associations to coordinate such codes. Over this year we see opportunities with piloting, asbestos, working at heights, and radio communication as areas where there is potential for us to lead the development of various codes.
We are looking forward to reviews and input into various other control aspects of the industry this year that will enable flexibility and safety, particularly for the heavy haulage and the heavy recovery sector.
On top of this, other infrastructure owners are reviewing their procedures in light of a shared approach in the new health and safety legislation – these include power network companies – and this is illustrative of the fact that numerous regulatory authorities are constantly looking to improve their safety procedures. We also need to ensure that whatever legislation is put in place translates practically on the road.
The next 12 months should see a further pipeline of work for various industry sectors the association represents, be it heavy haulage or housemovers, and the load pilots and heavy recovery sectors that service them.
The association will continue to represent the interests of these operators and ensure that roading projects and other infrastructure continue to provide suitable routes for the transport of large loads.