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Call for more vax hubs ahead of mandated jabs for truckies

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Victoria’s peak trucking body is calling for the state government to make it easier for freight workers to get vaccinated ahead of an expected announcement on mandated jabs.

Big Rigs understands that Victoria is likely to reveal this week it will follow other states in ordering that interstate truck drivers must have at least one dose in order to cross its border, with a deadline of September 17.

In order for the industry to comply, Victorian Transport Association CEO Peter Anderson wants to see vaccine hubs set up at established Covid testing centres.

If the government is going to mandate vaccinations for drivers, they also must be prioritised, and rewarded with less frequent testing, said Anderson.

“The requirement that drivers entering Victoria have a negative Covid test at least every three days is unnecessary for vaccinated drivers.

“This should revert to a maximum of one laboratory test a week, in line with the national Freight Movement Protocol.”

Anderson said it’s disappointing that the states seem to be “doing their own thing” and forgetting the cross-border protocols they all agreed to.

“Of course, what they’re all doing is making it harder and harder for the industry to operate.

“The real issue here for the industry is that people want to work.

“They’re not going to blockade the roads; they’re not going to not get vaccinated. They’re going to go to work to pay the bills and they feel lucky that they’re working when they see so many of their friends and their families who aren’t.”

Anderson says the VTA is also recommending to its members that they are supportive of staff who choose to get the jab.

“The sad part about of vaccination process for the heavy vehicle industry is that they’re being turned away at medical centres because they [staff there] don’t understand the rules.

“Workers are going there under an appointment to get vaccinated, they fill out a form to say they’re an interstate truck driver who visited NSW yesterday and are being told to leave facility before vaccinated and go home and isolate for 14 days.

“That’s happening on a regular basis.

“This is why we want the intestate sector of our industry – and we’ve been very specific about this – to be declared an essential service.

“So we don’t have these anomalies and these problems. We can knock on the door and say ‘I’m an essential service worker, I need to be vaccinated’, then I can get back in my truck and keep doing my job as if was driving a police car or an ambulance.”

Anderson said the Victorian government must help, and it must also recognise the transport industry and its workers’ herculean efforts to keep fragile supply chains open.

“Our industry has carried millions of tonnes of goods over millions of kilometres within Australia since March 2020 and have maintained our disciplines and processes to ensure we comply with every directive,” said Anderson.

“We’ve achieved this despite some of the most confused, onerous and personally intrusive requirements of any industry including different border crossing, testing, self-isolating and other permit requirements.

“We’ve kept our social licence with Australians to keep working despite these rapidly changing roadblocks, with transmission events from transport able to be counted on one hand.”

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