August 20, 2020

Covid restrictions impact truckies

The TWU is calling for uniform permits and testing requirements for drivers crossing closed borders throughout the pandemic. Delays at the border and completing permit administration puts more pressure on truck drivers to skip rest breaks, speed and drive fatigued to make up the time.

Jared Lynch | The Australian, August 12th 2020

Truck drivers are beginning to refuse routes from Victoria to South Australia after hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of freight was stopped at the border this week and turned back towards coronavirus-infested Melbourne.

South Australia Police turned back about 60 trucks at the Victorian border on Tuesday night, citing a “misrepresentation” over its directive requiring truck drivers to be tested for COVID-19 within seven days from entering the state from Victoria.

The ongoing border chaos is despite the impending implementation of a federal government code aimed at ensuring freight continues to flow across Australia’s states and territories. But the Transport Workers Union and Victorian Transport Association says the code, which is set to be introduced next Monday, is useless.

VTA chief executive Peter Anderson said drivers were also beginning to refuse Victorian-South Australia routes because of the fine in both states — $1000 in SA and $1600 in Victoria — for not adhering to their respective requirements.

Between 3000 and 4000 trucks cross the border each day, with Mr Anderson saying freight from Victoria delivered a vast amount of essential items to South Australians, given Melbourne had the country’s biggest container port.

He said SA’s mandatory testing was unworkable and would require breaking the law, given those who undergo a test for COVID-19 in Victoria must self-isolate until they receive the results, which can take up to five days. And he said truck drivers also can’t be tested for the highly contagious virus in Victoria if they are not showing symptoms, with the state disallowing asymp­tomatic testing.

“We can’t test what needs to be tested. We can’t meet the requirements of what the South Australian government wants us to do,” Mr Anderson said.

“What’s going to happen is as soon as these drivers start to get fined, they’re going to look at themselves in the mirror and say, ‘JobKeeper for me, I’m going to sit this one out’.

TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said the federal government’s code would heap pressure on drivers and operators battling COVID-19 restrictions because it placed the onus of complying with testing, permits and personal protective equipment on drivers.

Mr Kaine said the code also failed to deliver paid pandemic leave for drivers forced to wait for tests or to self-isolate. “Nothing in this code will make it easier for drivers to access the complicated permits systems in various states,” he said.

An SA police spokeswoman confirmed the freight delays at the Victorian border.

SA Police Assistant Commissioner Craig Patterson held firm on the mandatory testing and said there was no excuse for entering the state without one.

“The industry has had sufficient time to undertake the required COVID-19 testing,” he said in a letter to the federal government and transport industry.

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