In her own words
I am Territorian, born and bred, and transport is a family passion. My father was an Italian migrant who came to the Territory in 1954, worked at the Rum Jungle uranium mine and brought trucks. My twin sister and I grew up in our early days out bush with my father building beef roads in central Australia and the Barkly region. He was a transport subcontractor and our mother a teacher who instilled in us the value of education and life-long learning. I am one of six children and three of my brothers went into the road transport industry after completing their trades. For many years, in parallel with my professional career working in psychology and injury management, I assisted my brothers implement safety management systems into their trucking business for accreditation purposes as well as implementing training and human resources initiatives. Through word of mouth, I worked with many other trucking companies on their safety management systems and accreditation. This work led to my role as the Executive Officer of the NT Road Transport Association.
In this position I am focused on lobbying, training, and education and whether you choose to be an Association member or not, my aim is upskilling via inclusivity and my goal is to ensure all road transport operators in the Territory are the safest and most efficient they can be. The NT is exceptional in terms of both its opportunities and challenges however, the much needed cultural shift to better accommodate women in road transport must be embodied, lived and breathed by every individual, every day. Tokenism just does not work.
Caring for our people
We must be more committed to protecting our workforce. That includes identifying and opening up about the hidden risks that impact our truck drivers, such as the risk of suicide by truck as well as truck drivers who are first responders at road accidents. Supporting our employers to better support their workers is an imperative. Tragically, the emotional and financial burden is considerable on all parties. Often a truck driver who has someone choose to die by using their truck is so affected they are not able to return to driving. So, we must be committed to better protecting our workforce through community education and training.
For many years I delivered fatigue management training for the road transport industry. One of the questions I would ask participants was: Have you been first at the scene of a road accident? Anecdotally at least 70% of the NT truckies in these courses had been first on an accident scene, which prompted me to look for the research evidence and absolutely nothing existed. With the assistance of a research grant via the Heavy Vehicle Safety Initiative we conducted a nation-wide online survey and received 161 respondents. Of those who responded 105 were truckies who had been first on the scene of a serious road accident. Shockingly, some of them had been a responder three or four times. And what did 93% of the first responders say they did after an incident? They went on their journey to finish their job and did not receive any debriefing or counselling. This led to a second component of the research project to develop and deliver a four hour bleed control training course designed specifically for truck drivers. The objective of the tailored upskilling course is to give truck drivers more skills and confidence to save a life along with recognising the potential longer term health impacts on drivers who inadvertently become first responders.
In 2021 we lodged a submission with the Joint Select Committee on Road Safety. We were delighted when the committee recommended that the Australian Government work with state and territory governments, the heavy vehicle sector, and other road safety stakeholders to support the national rollout of first response training for heavy vehicle drivers. The committee considered this training should be included as an action item in the National Road Safety Strategy 2021–2030.
My mantra is: every occupation you can think of you can find in transport and logistics. We need to be better at selling this amazing fact. When you talk about the transport industry and jobs, people assume that you want them to be a truck driver. Instead, there is an extensive range of roles and career path options, particularly for women interested in our industry, and there is a lot to like about it.
In terms of attracting workers into the industry, we are currently in a perfect storm, urgently needing to address impediments to the recruitment of skilled and unskilled international workers. You simply cannot run a trucking company safely without qualified diesel mechanics, yet road transport operators are priced out of the market because of demand driven by the mining industry for the same skilled workforce. Short, medium and longer term solutions to the workforce and skills shortages must be implemented.
Finally, the transport industry is Australia’s second largest emitter of Green House gas emissions so what can every transport business do, immediately to assist our customers reach their net zero targets? In the NT we are establishing a transport working action group on climate response because we need to assist our transport companies to act now.