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New permit required for freight workers during NSW/VIC border closure

Transport for NSW has reviewed operations for the freight industry and have created an additional permit as of close of business Thursday 9 July that will enable critical workers in the transport sector to be exempt from self-isolation measures.

In a statement to the Freight & Trade Alliance (FTA) and the Australian Peak Shippers Association (APSA) members, Susie Mackay, Executive Director Freight at Transport for NSW said the state government is working hard to ensure certainty around operations for the freight industry and to keep the supply chain flowing through the temporary NSW/Victoria border closure.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian announced the closure of the border with New South Wales following discussions with prime minister Scott Morrison on Monday 6 July due to the concerning spread of COVID-19 in Melbourne.

According to Susie, the additional permit will allow people within the freight and transport industry to be able to travel between NSW and Victoria for the purpose of their duties, providing their employer has a COVID-19 Safety Plan and will not require them to self-isolate.

“The NSW Government has commenced the development of the new permit, which will be live through Service NSW by close of business today, Thursday 9 July,” she said.

Susie told FTA and APSA Transport for NSW  are working to ensure the smooth facilitation of the change over from the current critical services permit to the new one over the next 24 hours.

Kirk Coningham, Australian Logistics Council (ALC) CEO, said the Council has been working with the NSW Government and other industry groups over the past day to rectify the impractical requirement for freight transport workers entering NSW from Victoria to self-isolate for 14 days.

“We are pleased that the NSW Government is now creating a new permit that will allow our industry’s workforce to continue delivering essential goods to communities without being forced into self-isolation,” he said in a statement.

On Wednesday 8 July, the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) demanded answers from the NSW Government as truck drivers were being issued with 14-day isolation notices as they plan to cross the border from Victoria into NSW.

“Truck drivers are providing an essential critical service during this pandemic. They are delivering food, fuel and medicines. They are keeping the economy and businesses open by distributing goods across Australia,” John Berger, TWU Victoria Tasmania Branch Secretary stated on Wednesday.

Susie said Transport for NSW is asking freight operators to be conscious of the significantly increased health risk in Victoria and whilst all efforts are being made to ensure freight moves as efficiently as possible, “operators are encouraged to plan ahead as some delays may be experienced and to factor this into fatigue management plans”.

Dean Dalla Valle, Freight on Rail Group (FORG) of Australia Chair said Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Paul Toole strongly advocated within government for freight to flow freely across the Victorian-NSW border and “understood the logistical difficulty of forcing hundreds of train crews to self-isolate for 14-days each time they crossed the border on a freight delivery run”.

“A typical interstate goods train up to 1,500 metres in length can haul approximately 220 shipping containers, helping to significantly reduce the number of truck (and hence people) movements across state borders,” he said.

“Rail maintenance workers, terminal staff and safety compliance officers also need to regularly cross the Victorian-NSW border in cars to service and supervise essential freight train operations.” he said.

According to a statement from the Victorian and NSW agriculture ministers, both governments are working to ensure freight can flow across the border.

“We are working closely with our federal and New South Wales counterparts to ensure freight movements across the border can continue and our agricultural products can be delivered to market shelves across Victoria,” said Victorian Minister for Agriculture Jaclyn Symes.

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