In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak in NSW, border closures are causing absolute havoc for truckies, with some having to wait up to five hours to get into Victoria – and authorities are scrambling to get these issues fixed.
Big Rigs has been inundated with photos sent in by drivers waiting in line, in border queues that stretch for kilometres.
As confusion mounts over permits for freight and as authorities fail to open truck lanes, truckies are getting fed up with having to wait for ludicrous amounts of time to cross borders.
What’s more, the Transport Workers’ Union is warning about delays to stock for Christmas as trucks again face delays because of border closures.
The Australian Trucking Association has advised that authorities are working hard to streamline access for truckies, adding that the Victorian Transport Association (VTA) is pressing the Victorian Government to understand the issues at the border and try to put an end to delays.
“Interstate truck drivers are subject to stringent work and rest hours. They can’t wait at the border for hours to have their paperwork checked – particularly since truck drivers have been following COVIDSafe precautions for months,” said the ATA.
The TWU is calling for a national approach to border closures which automatically kicks into place and which should include designated lanes for trucks alone. It’s also seeking a change to Border Permits that ensures transport operators are not having to apply for a permit every trip.
TWU NSW Branch Secretary Richard Olsen said the union had serious concerns about what is happening at the border. “We are seeing trucks backed up trying to cross the border and we know this means disrupted supply chains which could threaten shops getting goods in time for Christmas. We are also seriously concerned about drivers left to wait at the border and how that impacts on their fatigue. We do not want to see tragedies emerge on the roads because of delays to trucks,” he said.
TWU Victoria and Tasmania Branch Secretary John Berger said the lack of a national plan on freight movements across borders during COVID is threatening supplies and safety.
“We have been living with COVID since March and have endured various border closures yet we still do not have a national plan in place to allow trucks to move. There should be a plan formulated at the national level to allow truck drivers to do their jobs as essential workers. Previously, drivers entering NSW had to deal with appalling delays, and now the Victorian Government has implemented border control measures as a result of inaction by the NSW Government,” Berger said.
According to TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine, the Federal Government devised a national code on freight movement which has clearly failed. “The Federal Government’s code on freight movement failed to include what should happen in the event of a border closure and the road transport industry is living with the consequences of that failure. This should have been the main point of such a code. The Federal Government must take responsibility for the confusion at the Victoria-NSW border today and the knock-on effects for supplies and safety,” he said.
The TWU also wants to see a national plan on borders to include:
- Clarity that trucks will still be allowed to cross state borders and that truck drivers will be exempt from self-isolation requirements.
- Clarity about any measures in place at border crossings to check trucks and truck drivers crossing, whether this includes temperature checks on drivers, logbook checks and more.
- Assurances that truck drivers will be supplied at these border crossing with hand sanitisers, masks, gloves and information.
- Clarity on any measures in place for truck drivers when they enter states to protect themselves and others.
- Assurances that truck stops will stay open so that drivers can still access rest areas for food and showers.
- Assurances that showers and rest areas at truck stops for truck drivers will be cleaned and disinfected adequately.
- Assistance in ensuring that clients pay owner drivers and transport operators on time.
- Assurances that owner drivers who are in financial distress are given financial assistance.