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Governments failed to listen to industry advice on Covid testing: RFNSW

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Last year in the wash-up to Covid 1.0, Road Freight NSW (RFNSW), along with the Australian Industry Group and the ATA pleaded with state and federal governments to ‘war game’ future outbreaks.

Their aim? To avoid exactly the scenario plaguing truckies today up and down the eastern seaboard as they try to comply with increasingly strict health orders on Covid testing.

RFNSW CEO Simon O’Hara said he’s inundated with reports from members about a swag of issues facing their drivers, from inadequate testing, the lack of PPE compliance by testing staff, availability of testing kits (for self testing) and testing sites even being open.

“We now note that truckies are waiting in line in the freezing cold and the rain at Tarcutta to get into the caravan for testing,” O’Hara said.

For the past week now, RFNSW has made TfNSW and the NSW Health Minister aware of a number of ongoing situations facing truckies dealing with Covid rules, regulations, and compliance plus the day-to-day rigours of just doing their job during the pandemic.

O’Hara said TfNSW told him they had taken “immeadiate action” and are urgently investigating all testing sites to ensure the site protocols are appropriate to the current environment.

He also received the same response as Big Rigs did when we asked what is causing the issues at the five ‘freight-friendly’ sites that were first established in August 2020.

“In recent days all five sites have seen an unprecedented increase in demand with the introduction of mandatory testing requirements for some freight workers in NSW, as well as the introduction of mandatory testing in Victoria, Queensland and South Australia,” said a spokesperson.

“Extreme demand for testing equipment more widely has also disrupted supply from the test kit manufacturers in some areas.

“Transport for NSW is working urgently to ensure the five testing sites are stocked to service the increased demand and will keep industry updated.”

O’Hara said he is heartened by TfNSW’s pledge to get on top of the issues at the testing centres, but based on anecdotal evidence there is still a long way to go.

Just yesterday a RFNSW member sent him a picture from the Taree site which had run out of kits.

“Afterwards, the same company, were threatened with a $4000 fine at the Queensland border. We have written to TfNSW about this matter this morning.”

A TfNSW spokesperson told Big Rigs that freight drivers are able to use any Covid-19 testing centres to fulfil the requirements for mandatory testing with a number of centres now operating over extended hours. To find the closest test site, visit www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/health-and-wellbeing/clinics

They also told us that freight workers are advised to follow the advice on the VMS boards at each site.

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