A coalition of peak trucking associations across Australia is doubling down on its push to have the rapid Covid test kits approved for use by truckies.
In an open letter to the federal cabinet, transport bosses reiterated the need to have the kits rubber-stamped to mitigate the increasing Covid testing demands.
They also asked for the industry be officially designated as an Essential Service during a State of Emergency as part of its push for a unified national framework on border crossings.
“The road transport industry is requesting that this recognition be implemented immediately, and that the status of the road freight driver be adjusted accordingly,” said the letter signed by the National Road Transport Association, Tasmanian Transport Association, Victorian Transport Association, Northern Territory Road Transport Association, Queensland Trucking Association and Western Roads Federation.
“The status of being an Essential Service while in a State of Emergency only, is a consideration that would consolidate the commitment of the state and worker towards each other.”
Under the present system, the alliance says states and territories can make essential service descriptions, but they tend to pertain to industrial action or emergency services.
“Inconsistencies between jurisdictions lead to inconsistent border crossing requirements we have now – e.g. two-day, three-day and/or weekly requirements depending on the jurisdiction.”
The transport alliance adds that the industry has ensured that it has adhered to all directives and has in fact gone above and beyond the general requirements, to ensure it is not a spreader of the virus as it goes about its essential transport and distribution tasks.
“Over the past 18 months the road transport industry has made millions of trips and connections within every community and has not transmitted the Covid virus except for a handful of cases.
“This record is exemplary and should be recognised in parallel with many of the parameters and restrictions that are having to be imposed upon the community due to the ease upon which the virus can spread.”
The group also reminded cabinet that the interstate transport sector is required to have asymptomatic Covid tests every three days to ensure they are virus free and do not carry Covid between states as they complete their freight tasks.
“Without contesting medical advice and direction, the road freight industry is requesting that the asymptomatic testing regime for interstate freight drivers be modified to include less personally invasive rapid antigen testing for those drivers that must test more than once a week. That is, a rapid/home kit test and an accredited pathology laboratory test every week.
“This modification would see the testing regime still acknowledged, the community protected and drivers avoiding the personal discomfort that twice weekly lab testing provides.”
In a seperate statement, Road Freight NSW CEO Simon O’Hara also added his voice to the growing call for self-testing kits in a bid to help drivers avoid lengthy queues at testing sites and better manage their fatigue and productivity levels.
“More must be done to fix the failures we’ve picked-up in the current testing regime,” O’Hara said today.
“Having to comply with mandatory testing every 72 hours is causing real problems for our truckies. They’re still being forced to wait at roadside testing sites, undergoing what are uncomfortable nose and throat swabs, often in cramped areas, like caravans. Adding insult to injury, we’ve also had reports of test results going ‘missing’, leaving drivers in limbo.
“The use of self-administered rapid antigen testing kits for truckies and other essential freight workers at roadside testing hubs and transport workplaces, would certainly make it easier for them.”
O’Hara said RFNSW has raised concerns about a number of health and safety risks facing truckies working under the new Covid rules, regulations, compliance, plus the day-to-day rigours of just doing their job during the pandemic.
“We’re pleased that the NSW Government has already acted on some of these issues, such as providing shelter for truckies who’ve been forced to stand out in the rain whilst waiting to be tested.”
O’Hara said a number of trucking companies are now working with private contractor, BAMS, which is providing Covid-testing for truckies and other freight staff at their workplaces in south west and western Sydney ‘hotspots’.