Peak SA trucking body, the South Australian Road Transport Association (SARTA), says it has stopped Woolworths from introducing rapid antigen testing of truckies in the state.
The supermarket giant had planned to introduce the quick-fire method at 19 distribution centres and online fulfilment centres across Australia after a successful trial in Sydney picked up seven Covid cases.
Woolworths advised the South Australia industry that it would be next in its sights from October 13.
“This will be a major and unacceptable problem,” countered SARTA executive director Steve Shearer in a protest letter to the deputy chief medical officer of SA Health and the Head of Pathology SA.
“We can’t have truck drivers being required to be tested willy-nilly by clients left, right and centre.
“That could rapidly see the poor drivers being required to have multiple tests a week or even a day.”
Shearer argued that the industry had already experienced “serious problems” in Victoria arising from false positives from clients, including Woolworths.
“The rapid antigen testing (RAT) of truck drivers that saw drivers banned and trucks locked down requiring an immediate full Covid clean and costing the operator substantially, including the lost opportunity costs from the downtime.
“The clients, like Woolworths, couldn’t care less about those unjustified costs, which will mount up rapidly …. and all for no benefit.
“This will see the truck operators suing Woolies and others. In short we don’t support unfettered RAT testing by clients.”
Sheared added that very few truck drivers visit just one client’s premises.
“We need to discuss the serious counter-productive consequences of allowing unfettered private RAT testing.”
In a Facebook message to his members, Shearer said that the deputy chief medical officer responded quickly and very clearly and strongly as follows:
“Woolworths do NOT have approval from the CPHO. No exemptions to the Direction in regards to RAT will be given in the imminent future.
“Woolworths put forth a proposal to us, which was discussed, but no assurances have been made to them. I have written to them today advising that the decision of the CPHO is that RAT testing will not be approved with the current Covid prevalence in SA, and as such their proposal is declined.”