Opinion

Where is the industry’s roadmap out of Covid?: Bored Neurotic Housewife

The states and territories have been announcing their general roadmaps out of Covid-19 over the past month once they reach the vaccination percentages they are chasing.

As essential service/essential workers, the freight and logistics industry has been running on its own government protocol (with states/territories tweaking them for their own jurisdiction) in parallel to the public protocols.

We can all see the GENERAL Roadmap out of Covid-19, but where is the freight and logistics roadmap out?

October, November, December last year, the threat of Covid seemed to dissipate, or so we thought. Enforcement, testing, etc just seemed to up stumps and go home without commentary. Freight and logistics was left languishing then too. Until Aunty Delta arrived.

Once Delta turned up to stay there was no continuity. Each state/territory ran its own race creating a total head squeeze for the interstate truck drivers and businesses. Common sense seemed to disappear too.

A Bored Neurotic Housewife was skimming through an industry magazine during the morning coffee break and noticed a story about a driver who got stuck in hotel quarantine. It looks like the freight protocol is not just confusing the drivers and police at the road borders, but at the airports too.

The driver needed to fly to Queensland to pick up their loaded vehicle, then leave again. The authorised officers (i.e., the police) told the driver they can’t fly in on a freight pass.

The now confused driver became distraught. They hadn’t budgeted for a stint in what must be a luxurious hotel for quarantine at a cost of $230 a day PLUS meals at $65 a day. I reckon I could make a pretty good meal plan up for that kind of money, including plenty of fish!

The driver tried to explain about the Queensland Freight Protocol but was told they couldn’t fly in on a freight pass and they had never seen anyone try. They said the driver would need to be taken to hotel quarantine until they provided a couple of documents to prove they were meeting the requirements of the freight protocol.

Sounds easy enough, right? Well, this is where the lunacy really kicks in

Got your coffee ready?

After being told “she’ll be right when you just provide your papers” the driver just goes along with the police to hotel quarantine to sort it out. Expecting maybe an hour or so to find and supply the evidence, the driver calmed down and set themself to the task of meeting the requirements that were written in the Quarantine Direction.

A little while later (less than half an hour), the driver and business owner have located the requested documents and sent it to the people in charge at the facility.

Fantastic, should be out pretty quickly and the load will still be delivered in an okay timeframe. After a little while, the driver decides to speak to those on the premises as they still hadn’t heard anything after an hour or two.

Oopsie, that paperwork isn’t the right stuff. Now they have to provide more info apparently! Grrr! OK, but if that paperwork is filled in, it might change the driver’s status for entry. Thinking, thinking, thinking… Well, if that’s what you’re told to do by those holding you captive, that’s what you do. New paperwork submitted, so now you just wait.

After being scurried away from the airport like a leper, despite having Covid 19 negative test result and adhering to all the legal requirements you’d been meeting through the pandemic, you’d think you’d be safe.

Just to be sure, you call the Covid hotline, and your fears are put to rest when you’re assured, not just once but multiple times by different people from the help line, you’ve been doing everything right. Phew, so now it’s just a matter of time and all will be good with the world.

After not hearing anything, like any normal person you’d be starting to get anxious and ask those that have told you to supply the information what was going on and when will you be released, right? Simple question with a not so simple answer when you deal with government bodies.

The driver is now told they need additional information and to settle in while they send your paperwork to those that can make a decision. Wait, what? Can’t those asking for the paperwork make the decision?

No, they’re just doing their job but don’t have the authority to make a decision to spring you from the clink, only the authority to put you in!

It’s a Saturday and your boss is doing everything they can to help you get everything they ask for in the hope of getting you out.

More people are asked for help and guidance, and then more people, but it’s a weekend and many of the regular associations and other bodies that would normally be called upon are having their BBQ’s or doing whatever it is they do on the weekend and aren’t readily available.

You’re not allowed to talk with anyone that is able to make the decision and you are told you just must wait until your paperwork is assessed – maybe a day or two!

Is there any wonder why the person being told they JUST need to provide two documents and they’d be good to go in an hour or two gets angry and anxious when they’re told it now may be a day or two?

But wait, there’s more!

After much flip-flopping, like the fish I’ll be preparing for dinner was when it was caught, about who has the authority to release the driver, the police or Queensland Health, a chat with the wardens the following day identified a possible new hiccup.

MAYBE the driver had said to the police at the airport they have family in the area they might visit if the load wasn’t ready. This wasn’t documented in the Quarantine Direction given to the driver, so where did this rumour start and WHY?

And the exemption the driver was told to submit – well it was sent to the wrong government department because the driver was already in Queensland, so it needed to be sent to another department who will get to it, whenever that may be!

At the time of writing this, nearly four days after the driver was taken to hotel quarantine, they are still sitting in their cell waiting for the pardon to come. The wheels of justice are extremely slow, especially if you’re languishing in a cell unnecessarily, that you can’t afford but must pay for regardless of the outcome.

Once, a long time ago when the NHVR first come into being and they had a 24/7 confidential hotline, the driver could have phoned that service.

But no one utilised it, drivers didn’t trust it and its opening hours were reduced to office hours.  Drivers didn’t trust that what they said would be confidential, that it wouldn’t be used against them and ultimately that something would be done. They also felt that the boys’ club would sweep it under the carpet.

Now, more drivers are finally seeing the benefits of using the hotline, they’ve seen, or have heard the results.  But still many complain ‘what’s the use, nothing gets done?’, ‘no one answers’, ‘it’s out of office hours’, etc.

Maybe it’s time to revisit, reinstate the 24/7 service, and show drivers how it’s used, how the process works and what results have come from it.

Also, drivers need to understand that they need to utilise it and when reporting on it, be serious and supply proof, it’s not the UHF.

Time for a double shot – BNH style.

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