Transport bodies call for national Covid testing sites

The nation’s peak trucking bodies are calling on the Australian Government to establish Covid testing points, in a bid to reduce test result waiting times and support vaccination requirements.

The proposal put forward by the ATA and its state and territory members recommendeds 24-hour Covid testing sites be set up at Port Augusta in South Australia and at the NT Border control point at the Barkly Highway Roadhouse in the Northern Territory.

“These are just two points at which nearly all national east-west road freight movements must pass through,” ATA CEO Michael Deegan said.

“These sites would also protect the north-south route from Port Augusta to Darwin.”

This comes after a recent incident involving delayed test results. “Recently we saw the example of two truck drivers testing positive in WA. They had completed a Covid test in NSW, but the results had taken three days to process,” explained CEO of Western Roads Federation Cam Dumesny.

“Similar delays are occurring with tests carried out in Katherine, Northern Territory where road freight drivers are forced to attend the local hospital to get tested for compliance purposes. Results can take three days to be processed.”

Also part of the proposal is that the sites be accessible at all times, with on-site staff capable of administering vaccines and returning test results quickly.

“To meet their mandatory testing obligations and reduce the risk of unwittingly transmitting Covid across borders, road freight drivers must have access to 24-hour testing facilities,” said Executive Officer of the NT Road Transport Association, Louise Bilato.

“There has been too much reliance on truck drivers getting Covid tests and vaccinations done in hospital and medical clinics that only take bookings 8am – 4pm on weekdays. It is increasingly hazardous.”

SARTA CEO Steve Shearer added that operating interstate road freight in the Covid era is a national challenge.

“It is essential that the Australian Government assists the states and territories by funding key vaccination and testing facilities that service interstate road freight drivers so we can continue to sustain the community and the economy,” Shearer said.

Queensland Trucking Association CEO Gary Mahon agreed.

“The QTA continues to strongly advocate for more consistent cross border testing requirements and would support the establishment of testing centres situated on the key freight route locations to allow truck drivers to perform the essential service of delivering freight in a more timely and seamless way,” Mahon said.

“We also advocate for a reduction in the frequency of testing required for fully vaccinated truck drivers, with rapid antigen testing the preferred option. PCR tests should only be needed in the event of a positive rapid antigen test.”

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