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Freight industry calls for border crossings measures to be reviewed

Transport unions and associations are demanding uniform permits and workable support for drivers entering closed borders following new COVID-19 border crossing requirements that came into effect on Thursday 30 July.

The Victorian Transport Association has highlighted major concerns about disruptions to supply chains following new COVID-19 border crossing requirements with New South Wales and South Australia.

Peter Anderson, VTA CEO said the new requirement for drivers to have had a COVID-19 test within the past seven days was unworkable.

“From today, all drivers will need to include in their cross-border documentation, that include individual permits and COVID Safety Plans into New South Wales and South Australia, valid evidence of having a COVID-19 test within the past 7 days. These directives are in direct contravention to health orders in Victoria from the Department of Health and Human Services,” Peter said in a statement on Thursday 30 July.

“In Victoria, we are directed to have a COVID-19 test only if we have specific symptoms or feel unwell. We must then quarantine until the results are provided within 3-5 days. Also, we are not given any written or electronic receipt of the test.”

Peter said the new restrictions will create enormous issues and stress for individual companies that need to service customers in other states and if drivers were able to get a COVID-19 test every 7 days they would be in breach of Victorian directives if they did not quarantine after testing.

“The contradictions are obvious and the VTA has raised this issue as a matter of urgency with the Victorian Ports and Freight Minister, the NSW Roads Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister,” he said.

“There is no doubt that we are in testing times,” Peter said.

“While the transport industry has been spared many of the restrictions so many other business sectors are having to endure, we are now feeling the brunt of the continual increase of COVID-19 cases that are stemming within Victoria.”

According to Peter, the interstate trucks that drive across these two borders each day and night are approximately 15,000 one way and the average tonnage carried is in excess of 650,000 Tonne per day connecting to thousands of supply chain connections. The VTA is looking to have these directives altered to enable border crossings to be workable and still maintain individual safety.

TWU demands uniform permits and testing 

The Transport Workers’ Union has written to the Federal transport minister demanding uniform permits and testing requirements for drivers entering closed borders and urging him to ensure that retailers and manufacturers do not slash their contract rates during the pandemic.

The letter signed by TWU national and state branches also demands that the Federal Government ensures that all drivers have access to paid pandemic leave and do not have to pay fines for breaches caused by poor systems implemented by their employers or the clients whose goods they are transporting.

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said any national rules must ensure uniform systems, protections and supports for drivers and operators.

“Having different testing and permits systems for each state is confusing and risks being ineffective,” he said.

“We are already seeing an impact on supply chains with some drivers and operators reporting a fall-off in work and a drop in rates.”

Vic/Tas Branch Secretary John Berger said the Federal Government needed to include truck drivers in any measures on paid pandemic leave.

“The Government must ensure that any drivers who need to get tested or self-isolate can do so without losing pay. We also want to see the Government ensuring that any fines issued to drivers over breaches of COVID requirements target employers and the companies whose good they are transporting if the breaches are related to their poor systems. Truck drivers have been openly identified as essential workers in this pandemic and they must be supported as they carry out their important work,” he said.

NSW Branch Secretary Richard Olsen called for an immediate end to the ambiguity and confusion at state borders and for governments to ensure the safe transit for transport workers doing their jobs.

“Drivers are already under pressure, with the squeeze on the transport industry as a critical service,” he said.

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