The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) board was in crisis talks with the Deputy Prime Minister this morning following the collapse of an interstate agreement aimed at speeding the flow of freight.
Despite a National Cabinet agreement last week on a protocol for moving freight across borders and screening truck drivers for COVID every seven to 14 days, state governments have imposed inconsistent and unachievable testing requirements and failed to provide the necessary testing facilities.
“The states’ COVID-19 testing requirements are a national crisis. They will shut the national trucking industry down if they are not fixed by the end of the week,” ATA Chair David Smith said.
“We do not know if NSW requires truck drivers to be screened or if they just encourage it.
“In Victoria, truck drivers are being told they must self-isolate after a screening test, even though they do not have symptoms.
“At many Victorian testing centres yesterday, such as the Hamilton, Portland, Ballarat and Bacchus Marsh hospitals, and the Melton drive through clinic, drivers were turned away and flatly told they would not be tested.
“Meanwhile, in the early hours of Wednesday 29 July, there was a four kilometre queue of trucks at the South Australian border – in the fog.
“It is complete chaos and is completely unnecessary. Australia’s trucking businesses and drivers have done a great job throughout the pandemic and are now being shoved around because the states are ignoring the national agreement they signed.”
Mr Smith said the ATA board had asked the Australian Government to—
- press the state and territory governments to implement the protocol as agreed
- ensure that testing requirements, including self-isolation requirements, are clarified and consistent, and
- ensure that testing facilities are convenient and accessible to truck drivers.
“If drivers are required to be screened, there must have appropriate facilities in place,” Mr Smith said.
“We recommended to the Deputy Prime Minister that pop-up screening facilities be established along major freight routes. They need to be open 24/7 and run by Australian Defence Force personnel if required, in order to keep up with demand,” he said.
Mr Smith said the Deputy Prime Minister sympathised with the trucking industry and understood the challenges faced by operators.
Today’s meeting follows clarification from the NSW government that truck drivers screened for COVID-19 in NSW are not required to self-isolate while awaiting the results, provided they do not have symptoms.
“This news is a positive step for the industry, but there is still much more that needs to be done to solve this crisis,” Mr Smith said.
Mr Smith applauded the efforts of ATA member associations such as the Victorian Transport Association and its CEO, Peter Anderson.
“Peter Anderson has been working tirelessly to resolve the testing issues in Victoria. This is an extremely challenging and confusing time for trucking operators, and the ATA and our members are doing all in our power to ensure the issues are rectified,” Mr Smith 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.