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Snap lockdown mayhem: Drivers caught out by new testing regime

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Interstate driver Phil Doorey is thanking his lucky stars that the Queensland Trucking Association (QTA) answered his Facebook SOS at the weekend.

Doorey was turned around at the Queensland border yesterday when making one of his thrice-weekly runs for Multiquip from Tamworth to Brisbane carting frozen chickens.

Police at the Wallangara checkpoint refused to let Doorey and his packed Scania cross into Queensland because he couldn’t produce a negative test from within the last seven days.

Doorey had got his usual Friday test in Tamworth and left for Brisbane on Sunday expecting the results to come though to his phone en-route, as per normal.

But because of a spike in lab testing volumes ahead of the tougher border controls, Doorey had nothing to show police at the border by 11am and was promptly turned around.

He spent the next six hours parked up at the nearby roadhouse sweating on the paperwork he needed.

It was only when he posted about his predicament on the Facebook support page Transport – Covid-19 Central as a warning to others that the QTA stepped in to save the day.

QTA CEO Gary Mahon called senior police and explained the situation and with the seven-day perishable exemption just hours away from sign-off, was able to get Doorey across.

“I can’t thank the QTA enough,” said Doorey, who without their help would have still been stuck at the roadhouse until 10pm last night before the result did come through.

As it is, he still had to stop on the way home for a mandatory seven-hour fatigue break but considers himself luckier than some.

“There were four trucks parked up with me when I went up and they were still there at the same spot when I came back to the service station.”

Doorey said he’s grateful for the added security he now has with the temporary seven-day testing rule for those carting perishables but isn’t convinced that it’s a solution.

“You get into a [testing] rhythm and when it changes it catches you out, you’re not stuck at home, you’re stuck on the side of the road” said Doorey, who is fully vaccinated.

“I’ve done everything I’ve been asked to do to keep working but I still can’t do my job, which is all you want to do.”

Nikki Masefield, compliance manager at Barellan Freighers headquartered at Wacol, tells Big Rigs she’s now tangled in a mountain of red tape for her drivers who are caught up in the confusion.

Her heart went out to a 64-year-old Barellan interstater who arrived at the Chinderah border at 1am on Saturday with all his documents in order only to be turned around by police.

Masefield said the young police officer on duty was under the mistaken impression that her driver needed to produce a negative result from the previous 72-hours, which isn’t the case.

“He [the truckie] didn’t want to stir the pot so they escorted him to the BP at Chinderah and left him there with several other drivers made to do the same thing.”

It wasn’t until the next morning around 8am that he got a radio call from a fellow driver to say “come on up, they’re waving us through”.

“This happend to several other drivers I heard about over the weekend too. These guys are getting frazzled.”

QTA CEO Gary Mahon said he heard reports yesterday that there were approximately 15 drivers grounded at Chinderah and a further five or six at Goondiwindi.

Doorey’s bind was just one of dozens the QTA was able to assist with and he empathises with drivers and operators trying to keep up with the ever-changing rules.

Mahon’s hopeful that a testing site for truckies will be operational at Charlton on Thursday and another at Goondiwindi not long after that.

“I’m less confident about one on the M1 but at the Port of Brisbane site this morning we had 70 trucks go through in four hours.

“It’s not exactly on-journey for a lot of people but because it’s a truck-only site and not shared with cars, at least if trucks go over there they know the queues are not going to be unduly long.”

His message meanwhile is for drivers operating under the seven-day testing rule is to get tested every four or five days now to allow extra time for the results to come through.

“Get into the rhythm of this thing because you’re now experiencing the reality of getting to the border and if you don’t have it [a result], you’ll be stopped. Full-stop.”

Update:

Big Rigs also wants to acknowledge the tireless work of the passionate admin team at Transport – Covid-19 Central, the Facebook group that is acting as an independent source of information for drivers and operators.

Led by administrators Leanne Dyer and Shelley Mitchell, the group has been working their “butts off” to help drivers at the border, says group expert Angie Welsh.

“I do not wish to take away from the phone calls made by the QTA and the other work they are doing to help industry generally, but this should not be at the cost of those doing the work in the background of the FB page(s),” Welsh reminds us on our Facebook page.

“Please don’t forget to acknowledge those that are doing this out of the goodness of their hearts, WITHOUT any pay, and making the relevant connections so the drivers have somewhere to turn to – even at 1 am when the border guards are incorrectly turning trucks around.

“Credit where credit is due please!”

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