2016 RTF Conference
The Road Transport Forum NZ (RTF) recently held its annual conference at ASB Baypark Stadium in Tauranga. Lyndsay Whittle reports.
With the theme of this year's being 'Innovation and Change', the 2016 event marked the first time the Road Transport Forum held its annual conference in the port city of Tauranga.
Citing Tauranga as one of New Zealand's fastest growing cities and its importance as an integral transport hub, Neil Reid, chairman of RTF, said that the road transport industry stands on the crest of a wave of innovation and change in the way the organisation approaches the tide of technological advancement over the next 10 to 20 years.
The two-day conference, which included site visits to the Port of Tauranga and the Paengaroa Weigh Station following the event, was attended by delegates from across the New Zealand transportation and associated sectors.
The conference culminated in the Road Transport awards dinner, hosted by Jeremy Corbett, which honoured excellence in New Zealand transportation and there were presentations to the winners of the NZ Truck Driving Championships.
There was something of interest on the agenda for all attendees, including a partners' programme, which took on a bus tour as far afield as the Hobbiton movie set near Matamata, and a farm to table food tour, in which visits were paid to the local Bay of Plenty food producers.
It has to be said that the 2016 conference seemed to lack some of the theatrics of 2015's RTF Conference, which was held at the Wigram Airforce Museum in Christchurch.
There, a 1978 L&P Kenworth sat alongside a stage, courtesy of a curtainsider trailer, and an HWR Group truck and trailer unit were also manoeuvred into the conference centre, serving as a fitting backdrop to the event.
That being said, the 2016 conference was packed with relevant information about the current state of the nation, and in particular, the road transport industry.
Ken Shirley, CEO Road Transport Forum, kept the programme running smoothly, which was headed by well-known economist and financial commentator Bernard Hickey, who provided some thought-provoking insights into the opportunities that exist in New Zealand (particularly Auckland and Christchurch) due to the population growth and conversely what could happen to upset the apple cart.
The information Bernard shared in his 45-minute presentation is too extensive for an article of this size. However, the overhead projection of a double-cab ute
he kept dropping in every half-a-dozen frames, gave his audience an indication
of which configuration of vehicle is enjoying a disproportionate increase in sales in this country and who he reckons is buying them.
He also pointed out that if Mercedes-Benz is entering the double-cab ute market with a luxury model, then we would most certainly continue to see more of this variant of 4x4 on the roads in the near future.
A far less palatable set of statistics was presented later in the day by Jeff Fleury from NZTA. Jeff has had the unenviable task of attending many road crashes involving truck and trailer rollovers.
The segment was a condensed version of Jeff's Truck Rollover Prevention Programme, which featured a short video in which the widow of a truck driver bravely talks about the day her husband's truck was hit by an oncoming car, wiping out the truck's steering.
Although, observers of the crash stated that the truck was travelling at the legal speed limit, with its steering out of action, the truck rolled, throwing its driver from the vehicle. He was not wearing his seatbelt.
Speaking to holders of licences, particularly in the Class 5 category who have attended one of Jeff's NZTA-sponsored Rollover courses, it is apparent that they are well worth the time taken to attend.
In the course, Jeff explains graphically how speed, gravity, centrifugal force, and the height of the load all play a part in the execution of a successful or unsuccessful change of direction on the road.
The presentation was scheduled to run for an hour but exceeded by 10–15 minutes, not that anyone was bothered by it despite it being the final presentation of the day.
Jeff was presented with the Outstanding Contribution to Training award at the gala dinner on Friday night.
Aside from a host of other interesting presentations designed to assist business owners to run a smoother and safer operation, there was a fairly realistic
driving simulator that everybody seemed to be keen to have a crack at. There was
an added incentive to win, as the first prize was a drone.
An important feature of the conference was the Women in Road Transport (WIRT) working lunch, hosted by the association's chair, Meryn Morrison, WIRT chairperson.
The one-hour session provided an interesting insight as to how the integration of women into an industry previously dominated by men can have a multitude of positive outcomes.
While one might have expected a certain amount of resistance from the male population to women getting behind the wheel of big rigs, nothing could have been further from the truth if the attendance of the guys at the Women in Road Transport luncheon was anything to go by, as it pretty much split down the middle.
Even the guys conceded that by having women participating in the trucking industry, it was inevitable that the standards of roadside catering and ablution facilities would increase as more women consider taking up truck driving as a career.
Anybody who has attended an RTF conference would testify to the fact that nobody is ever likely to die of starvation at one of their events, and the Tauranga event was certainly no exception to the rule.
Perhaps, it had a lot to do with the quality of the various presentations that there always seemed to be meal break just around the corner, whether it was morning tea, lunch or afternoon tea—and there always was plenty of it.
Adhering to the adage that an army marches on its stomach, the meal breaks were sponsored by Scottish Pacific Business Finance, Z Energy and Total Lubricants.
All good conferences must have an interlude of comic relief from the serious business side of life. This was provided as part of the Friday breakfast session by South African-born New Zealander, Urzilla Carlson, whose unique point of view and commentary had breakfast-goers in stitches.
Truck driving competition
However, the main competitive event of the conference was the NZ Truck Driving Championship, which is generously sponsored by TR Group.
At the gala dinner, winners in each class were presented with trophies to mark their achievements, with the major award of the night, the NZ Truck Driver of the Year going to Stuart Howard of the Tuakau-based company, Terence Howard & Sons.
Stuart was presented with a cheque from the Sponsor, TR Group's CEO Andrew Carpenter for $10,000 and a sculptured wooden trophy.
Campbell Murdoch from Murdoch Transport, Pahiatua, took out the EROAD NZ Young Truck Driver of the Year for the second year in a row, collecting a cheque for $1,500 for his efforts.
Reagan Brown of HWR Group—Freight Haulage Ltd, Invercargill, who was the previous holder of the Champion Driver of the Year 2015 won the combination truck and trailer segment this year.
The winners in other classes were:
- NZ Rigid (Class 2) Truck Driver of the Year—Dean Wilson, Philip Wareing Ltd
- NZ Rigid (Class 3&4) Truck Driver of the Year—Maikara Brown Rapana, Move Logistics
- NZ Combination (semi-trailer) Driver of the Year—John Baillie, Baillie Transport
- Runner-up combination truck and trailer—Chris Hancox, Road Metals, Christchurch
Planning is already underway for next year's conference.