– By Rob Wilson –
The 2015 Australasian Fleet Conference and Exhibition was held at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre on 14 and 15 April bringing together fleet practitioners, suppliers and industry experts from Australia and around the world. Once again there was a large turnout with the exhibition hall full to overflowing and delegates from the private, Government and Not-for-Profit sectors taking in some 28 plenary and breakout sessions.
The conference opened with a very topical session considering the review of the Motor Vehicle Standards Act 1989 (MVSA). The MVSA delivers national vehicle standards for new motor vehicles and regulates the first supply of imported vehicles to the Australian market.
The Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, the Hon Jamie Briggs MP, addressed the conference restating his objective to focus on reducing costs, improving the safety and environmental performance of motor vehicles and supporting a competitive industry.
The MVSA review is generally focused on increased harmonisation between Australian and International standards but does carry the contentious issue of parallel imports (whereby private and other buyers import vehicles outside the established manufacturer and dealer network).
The Minister followed up on 16 April with a press release declaring “Cabinet has now agreed to consider possible options to reduce restrictions on the personal importation of new vehicles after further public consultation is undertaken. The Australian Government is not inclined to take the same approach with used vehicles”. Consultation on the review will continue until the end of May with a final decision due later this year.
Barry Sherriff of Norton Rose Fulbright provided an engaging and plain English interpretation of the Fleet Operators Health and Safety obligations. As a member of the panel that undertook the National Review into Model Occupational Health and Safety Laws, Sherriff was able to provide an insight into their application and draw parallels between Health and Safety and other compliance obligations such as Chain of Responsibility.
The key message was that everyone has responsibilities for health and safety, and that all those involved in the operation, from the driver to the CEO, need to play their part diligently.
The second day had a fascinating presentation by John Drummond of FirstGroup UK. FirstGroup run some of the world’s biggest transport brands such as; Greyhound, UK Bus and UK Rail. With 117,000 employees, around 2.5 billion passengers and 108,000 vehicles they make for an interesting case study.
Drummond explained the company’s focus on both Health and Safety and Operational risk management and the positive affects this can have at a personal level and also for the organisation’s bottom line.
The presentation led me to ponder the cost of compliance breaches in terms of revenue and profit. Think about a company with a profit margin of 15% – avoiding a $75,000 fine or settlement is equivalent to sales of $0.5m!
Garry Whitfield of BP led a cost management session focusing on fuel standards. The take away for me was that while premium fuels provide improved efficiency to off-set the premium price, they also have a cleaning affect that can reduce maintenance and extend engine life. The decision for the fleet manager is whether this saving will be realised over the relatively short life of fleet vehicles.
Along with the interesting range of presentations and product on display there was also plenty of opportunity to network and renew industry acquaintances.