At the weekend, I somehow ended up running 5kms round the back of Rakaia via a bunch of “muddy challenges” – waterslides, commando crawls etc etc as part of the Muddy Good Run event.

I was pleasantly surprised to see drivers from at least two transport companies running alongside me – in their work shirts. Because, despite the CVIU roadside “health stops” and Gwynne Pennell’s stark warnings at the RTF conference in Rotorua last year, I wasn’t convinced that our industry was ready to face up to the changes that must come, if the industry is going to make the gains in the next 100 years that is has in the last 100.

Many of the people who set up the key operations in the industry today are still working in the background of those companies, even if it looks as though their son is manning the front desk. Let’s face it, our industry is characterised by a bunch of fat old men.

In the last couple of years, big changes have been made – we’ve introduced HPMV’s, ORS, smart phones, email newsletters and even electronic purchases of RUC. But we also have some massive challenges ahead of us – dad will eventually retire (one way or another), we don’t have enough drivers, fuel prices will keep rising, customers price expectations won’t rise at all, and the bureaucracy will increase – trying to keep us “safe” as more and more teenagers get their licenses and clog up the roads.

The future is not a place for fat old men. It is not a place for the faint hearted, or those averse to change. We can’t manage all of the hurdles ahead with an A3 dispatch pad, an RT and a handful of drivers who are too stubborn to realise that the driving skills they learnt on the farm in the 70’s are not helping them to get the best out of the 2013 Euro 6, fully automatic 50 tonne rig they have just been gifted with their new job.

If, as an industry, we are to get ahead and run a safe, efficient and profitable operation despite the best efforts of regulators, customers and staff, we need some bright young things to help us to understand technology, some people skills to help the drivers to become a part of the company “team” despite spending little time at the yard, and we need to change our perceptions of the ideal employee.

The next technology heading your way is electronic log books. – Automatic date, time and location stamping of every log book entry. Let’s not muck about, this is becoming compulsory around the world, the UK tachographs were just being updated to digital monitoring when I left 10 years ago, the US and Australia are heading in this direction too – so don’t think it won’t happen here.

The pace of change will continue to increase, to stay on top of it, we need to be fit, alert and adaptable. This goes for our staff and our organisational culture too. In 10 years time, will the business still be run by fat old men, working longer hours than get written into the log book and doing business on a handshake? We all need to start working out how to make those changes proactively, before it gets done to us.

In the mean time, lay off the pies and take yourself for a walk around the block once a week – we need you to be around long enough to help us to make the changes that will encourage the next generation to take over. So, a big well done to the boys from Philip Wareing Contractors and Fonterra with a 5km run under their belt today.

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