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Progress on border testing, but more action needed

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31 July 2020
Governments and the trucking industry are making progress on resolving the issues around testing interstate truck drivers for COVID-19 but more action is needed, Australian Trucking Association Chair David Smith said today. 
 
The ATA board met yesterday with Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, and later participated in a national teleconference with Australian Government, state government and other industry representatives. 
 
Mr Smith said that New South Wales had clarified its testing policy, which would help trucking businesses and drivers plan their operations. 
 
“At 5.56am this morning, the NSW Government issued an update confirming that COVID testing for interstate truck drivers was encouraged, but not mandatory,” he said. 
 
“These clarifications are welcome news for the industry, and I want to thank the government officials who participated in yesterday’s teleconference and listened to the industry’s arguments for clear, concise and consistent information.” 
 
Mr Smith said action was still needed to resolve the border testing issues. 
 
“The ATA is particularly concerned about the number of truck drivers and other travellers who need to be tested at the Victoria-South Australia border. The queues at the South Australian border are up to four kilometres long, partly because Victorian clinics are turning away people who do not have symptoms and just need a test for compliance purposes,” he said. 
 
“In discussion with the Premier of South Australia and the incoming minister for transport, Corey Wingard, the South Australian Road Transport Association has put forward a plan for putting out this fire on the border by moving to random testing. I urge the SA Government to take it up.  
 
“The trucking industry has an exemplary record on COVID compliance. Truck drivers are isolated in their rigs the vast bulk of the time and practice COVID safe measures when they are outside.  
 
“I also urge the Victorian Government to clarify its requirement that people who have COVID tests must go into quarantine until the results are known.  
 
“This is appropriate for people who have tests because they have COVID symptoms. It is not appropriate for drivers who are required to have regularly weekly screening tests.” 
 
Mr Smith said that governments needed to put in place convenient and accessible testing facilities for drivers. 
 
“Pop-up screening facilities should be established along major freight routes, open 24/7 and run by Australian Defence Force personnel, if required, to keep up with demand. The testing facilities should be confined to drivers needing screening tests to reduce the risk of cross-infection,” he said. 
 
“There must also be clear messaging that drivers without symptoms who receive tests should not have to self-isolate. 
 
“I know that everyone involved understands that failing to sort this out could have extreme effects on interstate trade, the economy, and the availability of goods across the country.  
 
“We urge governments to work together and consistently implement the freight movements protocol that they agreed on last week,” he said. 
 
The ATA and its member associations collectively represent the 50,000 businesses and 200,000 people in the Australian trucking industry. Together, the ATA and its members are committed to safety, professionalism and viability.