Isuzu Australia’s head of aftersales, Brett Stewart has raised some discussion points about the truck industry in the past week and says that there is a line that’s been used quite a lot in recent times, relating to the theme of change as it applies to the Australian road transport sector.

Stewart says that some experts are referring to the transformation besieging the industry as the ‘single biggest revolution’ in the history of transport.

“They’re referring of course to the evolution of alternate powertrain technology and the shift away from our centuries’ old love affair with internal combustion engines. I must say though, when I first heard that line, I was a little taken a-back,” Stewart said.

“That said, when you do take a moment to look at the trajectory of human ‘mobility’ more broadly, this assessment isn’t too far off the money.

“There’s little doubt this seismic shift is underway and understandably the new and the unknown garners more column inches in the press, but what about the ‘here and now,’ how are transport operators going about their business right now and how are they getting the best results from their tools of trade?” he asked

Stewart said that  the 2024 Isuzu Future of Trucking Report sought to ponder exactly those queries, amongst a vast range of topics covered. Interestingly  he said that for people like him – employed to keep trucks on the road – the report also highlighted some developing trends in the truck service and maintenance space.

“We’ll crunch some of those findings shortly, but first, some geographical context,” Stewart said

Having worked on, in and around trucks for a long period of time,  Stewart said he is perpetually surprised at how harsh the Australian operating environment can be on the capital equipment employed to ‘get the job done.’

“The vast distances, unforgiving climate, road conditions and an ever-growing freight task, make this country a unique and at times utterly unforgiving place to make a buck in the road transport business,” he said.

“Put simply, and from a maintenance perspective, we need to be ‘on our game’ down here in Australia, and for a range of different reasons,” he added.

“From our comprehension of and adherence to compliance obligations, to realising the efficiencies of regular scheduled maintenance (not to mention where to get that work done) – they all contribute to increased productivity and ultimately, more cash in the back pocket,” Stewart emphasised

He also  says that sacrosanct in this mix is our local Chain of Responsibility obligations or CoR.

“Part of the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL), CoR is about identifying risks involved in both on- and off-road activities, evaluating those risks and, where possible, eliminating them,” Stewart said.

Isuzu says its research confirms that Australian operators are doing a decent job of this, with 70 per cent of truck dependent businesses having effective CoR strategies firmly in place, which the company says is an encouraging foundation no doubt, but as with anything, says there’s always room for improvement.

“Analysing the data further, we can see that some smaller operations are still yet to truly grapple with compliance in meaningful way. Specifically, the ‘owner-driver’ sub-group surveyed in the report was revealed as having the lowest levels of awareness and planning for their CoR responsibilities,” Stewart said

“For a multitude of safety-centric reasons, we must collectively get to grips with compliance as an industry if we are to continue to grow and prosper under current economic conditions.

“One apt example is the attraction and retention of talent within our ranks. A compliant, safer, and more appealing work environment equates to the recruitment and retention of quality candidates – it’s a simple formula, but one we must continue to adopt,” he said

Building on the broader compliance theme Stewart says there are findings relating to servicing and repair preferences.

“Encouragingly, the report suggests the vast majority of major repair work being done within the Australian truck parc is being undertaken by OEM truck dealerships as opposed to third party workshops or on-site. This is an important point,” he added.

For reasons of technical and product-specific know-how, as well as overall product knowledge, Australian operators are looking for lasting repair solutions and the resultant reduced downtime and gained efficiencies, the Isuzu After sales head says.

He points out  that an important aside in the findings is that the repair preferences of the national fleet operator subgroup operating 50 plus trucks, are further influenced by not only the quality of workmanship (65 per cent), but equally by the quality of customer service and support (65 per cent). The importance of workshops having the latest technical info and diagnostic tools also attracted strong support within this group, also at 65 per cent the report reveals.

“All told, these preferences point to an Aussie operator with a strong grasp of the total cost of ownership (TCO) equation. They are looking for providers that can deliver the whole package when it comes to procurement right through to the completed lifecycle of a piece of equipment,” Stewart said.

he says that the report also confirms that this overarching sentiment extends through to issues such as the proximity to and location of servicing dealerships and a strong preference for genuine OEM parts and componentry.

“As has always been the case in the world of aftersales and service support, there’s a range of factors at play and all against the backdrop of an extremely demanding operating environment,” Stewart said.

“The other side to this story is of course the unprecedented rate of technological change we’re currently in the midst of – change that will present a unique set of challenges in the world of aftersales,” he said.

“What we should take solace in however, and what the latest Future of Trucking data confirms, is that Australian road transport operators are well informed, proactive in their approach and generally well positioned to respond, adapt and succeed.

“Given Australia’s dependency on road transport within just about every industry imaginable, it’ll be our ability to harness the best thinking, strategy and indeed the best people – that will enable us to continue to ‘get the job done,’ right now and well into the future,” Stewart concluded.