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Nick Leggett kicked off his new role as the CEO of Road Transport Forum ( RTF) at the beginning of the year, following his role of executive director of the New Zealand Alcohol Beverages Council. With two terms spent as Mayor of Porirua, and a role on local council at just 19-years-old, Nick brings in depth insight from the public sector to his RTF role.

Several months into the position, Teletrac Navman was lucky enough to pick his brains about the issues, opportunities and goals for the transport industry.

Nick’s enthusiasm for the road transport sector shone through.

It’s an exciting industry and one that has more focus on it at the moment. In New Zealand’s growing economy, I don’t think it’s [road transport] well appreciated. Part of my aim is to tell the story of the road transport industry and communicate how important it is to the economy and its people. Almost everything we have came on a truck – including the ease of buying fresh produce at the supermarket. If anything in the industry is threatened, it is RTF’s job to speak clearly and quickly on behalf of the industry.

What’s the number one issue that trucking companies are voicing to the RTF right now?

I’ve recently just flown back from Nelson. While I was there, I got speaking to trucking company owners who were concerned about NZTA tightening compliance rules. A change to regulation enforcement will always cause uneasiness for businesses. During times of regulation changes it’s our job to make sure they don’t go too far. We work as a go-between – we communication the regulation changes to the industry and we voice the industry’s concerns to the regulators.

Another issue worrying the industry is the proposed licensing changes. The trucking industry is currently experiencing a driver shortage as well as an aging workforce, the best solution to this is to simplify the process of getting a licence.

How does RTF envision licencing changes to make them more applicable to the real world and operator’s needs?

The draft rule replicates the discussion paper of 2016. There is no real change to the official position. So while the changes presented in the draft compared to the current licensing regime offer a number of beneficial changes, it falls short of industry aspirations for a simpler regime consisting of the 3 levels; class 1 ,2 and 5. In this scenario class 2 would have a capped limit of 25 tonnes on road mass except in the case of single unit vehicles. The single unit vehicles could have any number of axles at an unlimited weight. This approach would remove both class 3 and 4 from the schedule of vehicle weight thresholds and these would be covered off by a comprehensive proficiency and competency test at class 2 which would have to be independent of the training component. The most common truck in the fleet is the 2-axle single truck followed by the 4 axle truck whereas combination vehicles make up a smaller number of vehicles in the fleet. We want to break down licence classes to help young people gain their heavy combination vehicle licence faster. Currently, if you start work at 18 years old, can’t get your class 5 licence until the age of 25, which isn’t good for the industry.

What opportunities and areas of growth are you seeing for the transport industry?

There are plenty of opportunities arising for the road transport industry. New Zealand’s population continues to grow, which means the country is consuming more and producing more. Be it stock, logging or groceries, there is an increased need for transport freight.

Another area for transport companies to invest in to elevate their productivity and safety is technology. The ability to monitor and give assurance to staff around their driving and awareness of their speeds through telematics technology is going to become critically important for companies as a more pressurised compliance environment builds. It’s fair to say, safety monitoring is going to become a minimum requirement in the next few years.

What is the RTF is working on currently?

We are looking at engaging, along with our membership with NZTA on developing high-level principles that will hopefully guide the redevelopment of the rules that Transport Service Licence (TSL) holders operate under.

The issues around compliance that the industry is currently facing is also very important to us. We think that regulations should better reward companies that follow rules and go above and beyond for health and safety for their team and other road users.

Another key initiative is diversifying the transport workforce. RTF is looking at practical ways of encouraging diversity into the workplace. We’re a country of migrants, and a lot of women and young people who are keen for roles in the industry. It’s important for us to better understand how to make it more attractive to people in the industry. I’m a great believer that it’s easy to look outside for the solution, but often we have the capacity to come up with our own solutions and make a start on changes. We need to open the doors of the industry so people can walk through.

What are you looking to achieve in the next few years for the industry?

We want to be a reputable voice on behalf of the operators and propel in the transport industry towards greatness. It’s our job to make sure the transport industry is understood by kiwis for its social and economic impacts in our society at media, policy and technical levels.

A massive thank you to Nick Leggett from RTF for taking the time to talk to us for this blog.

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