The way of life of 25 million Australians stands at a critical juncture as supply chain headwinds have destabilised economic security, consumer confidence and threatened the standard of living previous generations of Australians had grown accustomed to.
This was the view of Victorian Transport Association CEO Peter Anderson who this week, following recent revelations that diesel additive AdBlue was at critically low levels and likely to ground thousands of trucks nationwide .
Unless governments, according to Anderson, were to do more to support the transport industry’s pivot to attaining supply chain sovereignty our ability to supply the basic needs of Australians all over the country was at stake.
“Supply chains in Australia have been under immense pressure at the best of times over the past decade, but COVID has exposed the deep structural flaws that have put them on the brink of collapse,” he said in a statement.
“Labour shortages and an ageing workforce of drivers has been an issue for years, but COVID and the way it has driven workers from the industry through restrictions, compliance and vaccination mandates is starting to resonate in the community,” said Anderson.
He cited the heavy vehicle licencing system that discourages young and capable people from considering a career as a professional transport worker.
It is alienating a new generation of workers and undermining renewal of an essential workforce Anderson said in the statement.
The oncoming crisis anticipated by a dearth of urea solution, the essential ingredient used in diesel exhaust fluid like AdBlue, signalled a giant blunder on the part of government and industry.
“If we as a nation can’t maintain supply of a basic engine additive relied upon by hundreds of thousands of commuter and commercial vehicles, we’re in huge strife,” said Anderson.
A recent VTA industry survey, according to Anderson, showed labour availability, costs and rates management, and fuel pricing are the most pressing issues for freight operators.
He said that only by attaining higher rates of supply chain sovereignty – defined by maintaining supply chains that are less vulnerable to international disruptions – would Australians be able to have economic security and confidence in living standards being upheld.
“We desperately need regulatory and legislative settings to identify the greatest risks that inhibit us from standing on our own two feet when it comes to basic things like labour and fuel security, which means ensuring we have a growing – not shrinking workforce, – sufficient reserves of fuel and energy, and the associated inputs necessary to keep road, rail and sea transport supply chains intact,” Anderson said.
Despite the adverse impact COVID continued to have there was, after all, a silver lining.
“Australian consumers are starting to have an appreciation of how supply chains work because so many of their online orders during two years of disruption have been delayed,” said Anderson.
“In the past, people only cared about supply chains when they didn’t have uninterrupted access to the things they enjoy, and with shortages, delays and disruption now routine people are starting to ask ‘why?’.
“On the verge of an election year, the politicians and public servants tasked with setting legislation and regulation that impacts supply chain sovereignty must factor this into their decision-making because the status quo of shortages and delays is not acceptable or sustainable for Australia.”