Opinion

VTA: Curfew easement extension should feature in recovery

VTA-column-Sep-18

The Victorian Government has released a roadmap for re-opening the state’s economy as part of a phased withdrawal from the Stage 3 and 4 restrictions that have been in place across Victoria since early August.

For the freight and logistics industry, the roadmap is remarkably like what the industry has followed all along, in consideration that as an essential service, transport has continued unabated, albeit with businesses having to trade with a COVIDSafe Plan.

The roadmap confirmed transport operators can continue to remain open with a COVIDSafe Plan, which is consistent with VTA advocacy in consultations leading up to announcements about no changes to freight. This is to ensure the transport industry can support supply chains during the transition and ensure Victorian consumers have access to essential goods.

The extension of restrictions on retail, hospitality and many other sectors of the economy will be extremely difficult for these businesses to bear. All these businesses are consumers of freight, logistics and transport, and many are customers of our members.

To help them through this difficult time, it is essential we support them as best we can by providing them with the reliable and efficient transport services they will continue to need to best service their customers.

In advising the government on re-opening the economy, the VTA has recommended curfew exemptions on heavy vehicles be extended beyond September 21, when the temporary change to the Road Safety Act is due to expire.

The freight transport industry is moving around the community on a regular basis every day, has had very few COVID cases, and has not been a mode of spreading the virus.

Our industry has conscientiously responded to COVID with operators embracing directions and restrictions, exceeding minimum standards, and applying additional measures to ensure drivers are protected and disciplined in their daily activities to prevent the virus spreading.

The industry had maintained an impeccable safety record since temporary changes to the Road Safety Act were made, and letting trucks use roads at night had been instrumental in keeping supermarket shelves stocked and averting panic buying.

As an essential service the transport, freight and logistics industry has been operating on a ‘green’ light since COVID restrictions were enacted in March, except for some exceptions around warehousing and distribution centres. We need our customers to get back to work as quickly as possible and we will be there to support their logistics needs.

Extending changes to the Act would go a long way towards ensuring continuity in the replenishment of goods for Victorian consumers. It is essential our industry can make deliveries to supermarkets, pharmacies and essential retailers, and support businesses and the economy as they start to re-open.

We will continue to advocate for this extension so that our industry can service its customers and consumers as we progress through the steps towards the economy re-opening.

Other recommendations we have made include manual or electronic ‘track and trace’ work diaries so drivers can record personal contact with individuals outside their own base, and a review of current warehousing and distribution restrictions to one that takes into account the size of the building and number of workers, rather than just the blanket restrictions now place.

We will also advocate for the Victorian Government to provide additional financial support and relief to businesses that have had longer restrictions forced upon them through no fault of their own, to give them – and our broader Victorian economy – the best possible chance of recovering when we reach a new COVID Normal.

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