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Veteran WA truckie reveals scale of supply chain breakdown

While the WA state government calls for calm around supply chain issues compounded by a “one-in-200-year weather event”, a long-time truck has painted an entirely different picture of conditions on the ground.

Calling into the 6PR breakfast show with Gareth Parker this week, a long-time driver called Eddie, who works for “one of the biggest transport companies in Australia”, said he’d never seen the industry under so much pressure.

“We had three semi-trailers working today and will deliver the last of our supplies into IGA and Woolworths this afternoon,” he said.

“Now the majority of the West Australian distribution fleet is currently stood down without pay and tomorrow our last three trucks also park up and we go home indefinitely.

“Most of these distribution centres will start running out of stock by Friday, maybe Monday, and there’s no contingencies from any other companies that I’m aware of; other than maybe Linfox, who’ve got a ship to bring stock into WA.

“I’ve been in this game for 30 years now and never seen it like this.”

Eddie told Parker that a lot of the issues stem from the state-imposed Covid restrictions.

“We can’t send our trucks interstate to pick up containers and bring them back here because once we cross back into WA we have to quarantine for 14 days,” he said.

“We’ve got to start easing a few of these restrictions on Covid, get the freight moving, get Main Roads into gear to maybe relax a few of their rules.

“At the moment it’s too hard for companies to deal with it: the red tape and lack of government support is crazy.

“And another thing is none of these drivers are getting paid. They have mortgages to pay and lot of them live week-to-week.”

Eddie said his company had tried trailer swaps at the border but ditched the idea due to compliance issues with Main Roads.

Parker told listeners that Cam Dumesny, the chief executive at the Western Roads Federation (WRF), was the only official he knew who had “blown the whistle” on the supply chain issues in WA.

“You’ll have the public screaming when these distribution centres really start running out of stock because nothing is coming into the state,” added Eddie.

Another source told Big Rigs that a lot of companies are advertising for transport companies to take containers across from the east but no one is willing to do it because they’re expecting the same rates they pay for rail.

“Added to that, it’s effectively a guarantee that trucks will be heading back empty,” said our insider.

Meanwhile, in a WRF bulletin yesterday, Dumesny said WA is now reliant on the road transport to continue to keep it supplied, while rail is out of action due to the flooding.

“This is expected to be until at least February 17. Even then it will take some time to get stocks rebuilt in WA,” he said.

WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said triple road trains would be used to increase the amount of products moving by road and lessen the blow to supply chains.

“Triple road trains will increase the capacity of the trucks by about 50 per cent,” she said.

“There [have been] safety concerns over triple road trains in the past, and that’s why they haven’t been allowed.

“But in this limited situation, they will be under escort going through parts of WA. That means there will be wardens with flashing lights to warn people.”

Saffioti said state and federal government had been discussing alternatives for bringing goods into the state, reports the ABC.

“It is a massive logistical exercise: rail, road, maritime. And we’ve got the unions, we’ve got the logistic chains all in the same room,” she said.

“It includes allowing triple road trains into Perth, and it also involves a potential land bridge, which means a combination of train, road, and train again.

The “land bridge” refers to supplementing disrupted rail lines with road freight.

Goods will be transported from the eastern states to South Australia by rail, shuttled by triple road trains to Kalgoorlie, then moved by rail again to Perth.

Temporary special assistance: flood relief permit [key points from WRF]

Main Roads has approved temporary special assistance – flood relief permits, in response to the current supply issues caused by the closure of the flood damaged east/west rail. Suitably accredited transport operators undertaking interstate transport tasks can apply for the temporary assistance permit, until the rail line becomes operational.

Flood permits available:

  1. 53.5m Temporary Special Assistance – Flood Permit provides temporary access for 53.5m road trains to operate between the WA/SA Border and the Kalgoorlie Rail Head or the Coolgardie Road Train Assembly Area and is available for use immediately.
  2. 36.5m Temporary Special Assistance – Flood Permit provides temporary access for 36.5m road trains to operate on Great Eastern Highway, between the Northam Road Train Assembly Area and Roe Highway in the Perth Metropolitan Area, removing the need to disconnect trailers at Northam and is available for use after the morning curfew period on Friday, February 4.

The temporary access arrangements are subject to the following permit conditions:

All vehicle combinations must display an amber flashing warning light on the rear of the combination that is clearly visible to traffic approaching from the rear.

A 36.5m combination travelling on Great Eastern Highway from Yilgarn Avenue to Roe Highway must be escorted by a Main Roads WA Transport Inspector. Drivers must wait at the Northam Road Train Assembly Area on Yilgarn Avenue for escort.

A 36.5m combination must not travel on Great Eastern Highway, between Yilgarn Avenue and Roe Highway between the hours of 6-9am or 4.30-8pm.

Operators must ensure drivers are trained in the use of the particular auxiliary braking system fitted to the prime mover. Drivers must ensure the auxiliary braking system is set correctly and low gear is engaged prior to descending Greenmount Hill at a maximum speed of 40km/h.

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