On the weekend I had the distinct pleasure of being a guest speaker at the Northland National Road Carriers event in Paihia. It was great to have the pleasure to speak with and learn from people that have been on the road for many years and are very passionate about what they do.
When I present I try to really engage with the audience, show them that I care and that I really want to understand what matters to them. I can tell you I learned a lot from them and hopefully they will have learnt something from me too.
We have known for a long time and you will find it in past blogs from me that our freight industry driver pool is ageing. The average age is in the mid to late 50’s which is a real problem as people get older and many younger people if they want to drive would rather go to the Australian mines or other places where they can earn a lot more money.
Meanwhile we have people with a wealth of valuable experience, some of whom are still driving at the age of 70 and clearly they are still bright, alert, experienced and capable.
My focus and mission was to find out if they put as much effort into preparing for their journey by way of finding out about traffic information on their route as they do on preparing their vehicles inside and out and their loads.
Whilst initially participation in the discussion was slow and I was prewarned that many of them would not put their hands up, it became very clear that some of the tools used for provision of real time traffic information are not accessible to that age group. Many of them don’t use social media, even to keep up with family, most of them appear not to use apps, even industry apps designed especially for them. They are still mired in ‘time proven’ 2-way radio and other word of mouth communications to share information with each other.
This is a generalisation, many did put their hands up, the younger ones, but I got a call from one of those younger ones saying “You’re talking to the wrong generation, Mate”. Yet, these are the drivers in many cases driving very modern rigs with the same responsibilities as the young guns in their forties. So after many discussions, I concluded that I need to have more discussions with them and also gain more focus on despatchers and other ways of communicating with these people who are key to keeping our country moving and flourishing. We have seen what happens with the Kaikoura earthquake, how quickly places get isolated if freight can’t move. They only carry enough essential stock of fast moving consumer goods for a few days (which is normal).
While I was in Paihia, which was beautiful, warm and friendly and I loved the relaxed atmosphere.
One of the typical little things is that there were baskets with umbrellas in them dotted around town. The idea is that if there is a shower, you grab yourself a brolly and when you get to your next destination you drop it off for someone else to use. Nice one folks.
We drove home on the Sunday after enjoying the last All Blacks test of the season, there’s nothing like a win against France to put a smile on your dial, especially because being the last match of the year, whatever happens at that last match you have to carry with you to the next season. Sorry I’m a Kiwi and I love my footie:)
So we hop in the Corvette for the drive home, most of which was warm and sunny and we experienced a couple of things, one which was wonderful and the other not so much, especially for my wife.
There are a number of passing lanes on the road south, particularly between Whangarei and Auckland and there was a lot of traffic in both directions. But here’s the thing, other than when there was the odd very slow vehicle, a large truck or a very old campervan that had a maximum speed of about 60km per hour, when people took the legal opportunity to pass. At any other time, the majority of motorists didn’t use the passing lanes at all. They all stayed in single file, knowing that they wouldn’t get to their destinations any quicker if they had to keep merging. I don’t see this all over the country, but I do see it a lot in Northland. It makes you proud that so many people do the right thing because they choose to.
The rant is different. There are a lot of road works to the south of the summit of the Brynderwyn range and a lot of it is coned off with a speed limit of 50km per hour. We had almost reached the summit at exactly 2PM (my watch vibrates on the hour) when a very large milk tanker and trailer came around the corner at pace. It must have been doing 70 or 80 km as it reached the cones and the front driver side wheels were on our side of the road.
My wife was far from impressed as our car is left hand drive which had her eyeballing the wheel nuts of the huge truck’s wheels. If he had been a couple of feet closer he could have been driving over the top of our car like those tanks you see on YouTube clips.
The frustrating thing is that the driver won’t be reprimanded because the 50 kph speed limit is a temporary one for the road works and therefore wouldn’t have registered on the very good Fleet Management system the company uses. I don’t know if he was in a hurry, distracted or had another reason for speeding on a high crash zone piece of road, but a little closer and I wouldn’t still be blogging. The profile of our car would have made it the perfect ramp for the truck to squash.
Anyway, we survived but the rest of the journey was far from relaxed.