AITPM Member Personal Profile Peter Bilton CPEng, RPEQ, NPER, MBA, GAICD, FAITPM
Peter has worked in the traffic and transport industry for 15 years, with experience in consulting, construction and the public sector in Australia and the USA.
Peter is co-founder and Director of Point8 Pty Ltd. A strategic problem solver and strong communicator, Peter’s advice is regularly sought after by a diverse range of clients in the public and private sectors.
What is your current role?: Director, Point8 Pty Ltd
What first attracted you to get involved in the transport industry?
Volleyball! My first introduction to the industry was playing a beach volleyball team with my wife’s colleagues. At the time, I was working as an analyst for a large multinational mining company, but not enjoying my role or working in the mining industry. Fortunately, I did enjoy playing with the people on my wife’s work volleyball team, which opened the door for an interview with Cardno Eppell Olsen.
More seriously, I was attracted by the idea of a career that involves solving a broad range of problems which will make a long-term difference to communities in terms of safety, liveability and economic productivity. This continues to be my passion and inspiration for working in the industry. I also like the variety and diversity that comes with consulting. My work has taken me all over Australia and the USA, and I have worked with people from a huge spectrum of professions and industries.
Could you explain some key opportunities in your career and how they contributed to your development?
Very early in my career, I was extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to work closely with John Olsen and Tony Eppell before they retired. Working with such industry heavy weights gave me a grounding in extremely strong ethical principles and philosophies for being a good consultant. One bit of advice that has stuck with me is that a good consultant should “tell people what they need to know not what they want to hear”.
An opportunity to work in the USA with Kittelson and Associates, Inc was valuable in terms of being exposed to a broader range of project experiences, as well as working with international experts. I was fortunate to be heavily involved in the finalisation of the first Highway Safety Manual which gave me the opportunity to go to the TRB Annual Meeting which is an international transport conference which attracts about 15,000 people each year.
Having the opportunity to experience large infrastructure projects from a wide range of roles and perspectives played a huge role in my professional development. I’ve been fortunate to experience pretty much every stage of the major project lifecycle from early feasibility, tendering, design, construction and traffic management through to post-construction safety audits and benefit assessments. Some of the key projects have included the Clem7 tunnel, Gold Coast Light Rail (3 different construction stages as well as operational issues), Mains+Kessels, and tendering for the Westconnex Stage 3B. While they can be high stress, challenging environments to work in, large infrastructure projects give you exposure to a broad range of issues outside of transport and civil infrastructure and the opportunity to work with a diverse spectrum of professions and organisations.
A very important opportunity for me was in 2011 being offered a part-time job by a very supportive client who encouraged me to take the chance to start my own business. A stable income and flexible working hours allowed me to work on establishing Point8, and I am grateful to have had such supportive clients along the way.
A more recent highlight has been to be involved in developing the recently released Austroads Guide to Temporary Traffic Management Part 9 – Sample Layouts. Not only is the entire guideline a big step forward for the traffic management industry at a national level, but the Point8 team involved did a fantastic and highly innovative job on communicating the practical application of the other parts of the new guide in a way that teaches designers problem solving skills rather than just black and white ‘standard’ solutions.
What has been/will be your involvement with AITPM?
Attending AITPM events was something I started doing as soon as I joined Cardno Eppell Olsen which was heavily involved as a sponsor and at the committee level.
I joined the Queensland Branch committee in 2014 and being involved in the Brisbane 2015 conference was definitely a career highlight. Point8 has proudly sponsored the AITPM Queensland Branch for several years as a minor sponsor and we have encouraged all our professional staff to become members and be active in the organisation. It has been very rewarding to have 2 of our staff receive the Qld Young Professionals Award and to see junior staff push themselves out of their comfort zone to present at seminars and conferences and join the committee.
I was proud to be made a Fellow of AITPM in 2018 and I really enjoy giving back to the industry and helping young professionals learn both technical and softer skills.
What has been a memorable moment in your career?
While it would be easy to list many “big” events that have occurred in my career, some of the littler moments I remember the most. These include:
• The first time we interviewed someone for a job at Point8 – we hired our first cadet engineer on the spot - I think we were more nervous about the interview than she was.
• A road safety audit project that involved driving 2,000 kms from Mt Isa to Tennant Creek and back in a week. There were three of us in the car and we had a great time while working very long hours.
• Being the first person to drive through the Mains+Kessels underpass when we opened it to traffic the first time. Someone had to make sure it was safe 12
What are your personal and/or professional career plans for the future?
I really enjoy seeing young professionals thrive and become creative problem solvers and decision makers, so my plans for the future are to predominately focus on training and mentoring others to become the next generation of industry leaders.
Do you have any advice you would like to share to professionals in the transport/traffic industry?
Something I tell staff almost every day is “Start with the End in Mind”, as people tend to get caught in the weeds if they don’t have a clear picture of what they are trying to achieve.
Personally, I feel too many young professionals fall into the trap of wanting/being told to become an expert in one specific thing early in their career. Dealing with traffic and transport issues is very complicated as it often involves considering a huge range of issues (e.g. technical, legal, policy, psychology, economic, practical, political). Most of the really influential people I’ve worked with had career experiences which gave them a really broad range of knowledge. In short, for young professionals I recommend looking for roles or project opportunities that will teach you new skills and push you outside your comfort zone rather than just specialising in something too soon.
Finally, I can’t stress enough that ethics really matter in our industry. Often people in our industry are pushed by politicians, clients or bureaucrats to implement poor quality solutions based on political motives, costs or pressure from management to expedite a response. This often puts people in compromising positions to take action, sign-off on designs or make decisions which may not reflect the safest or best outcome for the community. While it can be very difficult to push back against people who may have significant influence over your career, livelihood or reputation, clearly articulating any ethical concerns immediately will always be your best option in the long run.