Industry Insights

Gordon Martin, Managing Director, the Martin Group

Gordon Martin has been involved in the haulage industry since he began carting gravel as a one man operation nearly 60 years ago. Today, the Martin Group is one of the most highly-respected transport operations in Australia. Gordon also sits on the Board of the Australian Trucking Association.

Q You’ve been in the trucking industry in some capacity since 1958. When Chain of Responsibility (CoR) legislation was implemented, what were the main obstacles and challenges your business had to overcome?

A We endeavoured very strongly to participate or to accept the CoR legislation, but endeavouring to get our customers, even today, to understand is still very difficult. I wouldn’t say they’re not aware of it – it’s more that some players still want to fly under the radar.

I’m a great believer in compliance, and we are endeavouring to be 100% compliant. That’s a big ask, and we wouldn’t be that high yet. We’d probably be in the 85–90% bracket. But compliance and regulation I’m 100% for. I think the industry needs some controls, it needs the guidance, and above all it needs everybody to be operating on a level playing field. Sadly, that’s not the case in many areas.

Q What are the unique issues that the rural and livestock sector faces?

A The biggest challenge in the bush is without a doubt how you regulate around its specific issues and needs. But as with anyone in the transport industry, first and foremost it’s got to be about safety.
Secondly, for rural and livestock parties, animal welfare is incredibly important, but above all you’ve got to be compliant. We can’t have people driving affected by drugs or excessive hours and endangering people other than themselves.

You will always have certain areas of a community that won’t want to comply. But if rural people – and I’m talking farmers and so on – if they put a truck on the highway, they should comply the same way an operator has to.

Q There have been news stories recently about regional courts seeing a steady stream of drivers and operators facing charges for failing to keep accurate log books. Do you think electronic work diaries are an answer to this?

A I think the electronic work diaries will become a regulatory factor which everybody has to comply with in time. I understand the log book system is very difficult for some people. But you can’t use that as an excuse forever if you want to become compliant, or if you want to be in our industry.

When we’re talking livestock, we’ve got some remote areas that will be very hard when it comes to electronic log books, because sometimes their time might come up and they might have only got through 300km for the day. It might be 200km of winding, narrow track before they even get onto a main road.

But on the main highways, it’s got to be regulated – if only to take the pressure off the people that are involved.

Q The law clearly sets out what’s covered and what’s enforced. How effective do you think the enforcement regime is at present?

A The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) is, I think, a great step forward, if we can get that over the line. But it needs money and it needs people, like everything else. If you can bring in a situation with everyone on the same playing field, the good operators will survive and the other ones will go by the wayside, unless they really get stuck into their compliance situation.

As it is now, the people who choose not to comply – and compliance isn’t cheap – they have a distinct advantage, which I think is wrong.

Q What’s your view on appropriate solutions to enforcement and oversight of vehicle roadworthiness? This has been discussed by both the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) and the National Transport Commission (NTC), including the possibility of it becoming a CoR matter.

A As you can appreciate, we’re in the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme (NHVAS) Maintenance [Management module]. I think we personally do it very well. But I do believe vehicles have to be checked. Not just a paper trail – I think from time to time vehicles on the road must be able to be randomly checked. That’s something where there’s still a lot of work to do.

I’m not saying that if you’ve got 100 vehicles that every one of those vehicles has got to be checked. But when the compliance audits are done, the problem is that there are no standards in there to actually check the vehicles. You can be an ex-policeman with no mechanical knowledge, yet right now you can still be a compliance officer in some cases.