Alarm at Victorian SA truck driver testing regime


Covid fortunes reversed but transporters still bear brunt at border

Alarm at Victorian SA truck driver testing regime
South Australia goes into heavy lockdown at midnight

 

South Australia is maintaining border restrictions to entry from Victoria, bar essential travellers such as truck drivers, but Victoria is instituting Covid-19 testing of them coming the other way.

The move comes as SA struggles to get on top of an infection spike.

"We'll be establishing a freight testing facility just west of Nhill today, it will be operating tomorrow, and then we'll roll out similar facilities across the border communities in coming days," Victorian health minister Martin Foley says.

"That takes just a few minutes, between five and 10 minutes, it will be a slight disruption to the programs for freight movement but we're working with the South Australians and the freight industry to keep that important trade route open."

New South Wales is also urging non-essential travellers postpone trips into SA, though the state ALP health spokesman Ryan Park is urging the border be closed "before it’s too late", as SA premier Steve Marshall announced his state would enter a six-day lockdown, described as a "circuit breaker", from midnight tonight.

The South Australian Freight Council (SAFC) emphasises that "at that point there will be no regional travel permitted, so if you have staff in regional areas that might not be considered 'essential travellers' that you can not operate without, you should get them on the road NOW".

SA Police define the heavy lockdown requirements, here, though 'essential freight' is exempted.

According to Victorian health department advice, here, testing starts tomorrow.

"Other testing sites will be progressively added at other major freight routes in coming days. And truck drivers can also be tested at more than 193 other sites across Victoria," the department advises.

"We are working with the major interstate freight companies, independent operators and industry peak bodies to provide advice about the need for testing.

"All truck drivers tested will have their samples fast-tracked for analysis.

"They will be allowed to continue on their journey and will be contacted quickly once their results are known.

"Currently the SA border is closed to Victorians which is limiting cross-border traffic and we will continue to work with our SA counterparts and NSW and monitor the situation closely.

"No border restrictions have been imposed at this stage, but we are asking South Australians to cancel all non-essential travel to Victoria at this stage."

As with earlier in the year, when Victoria was fighting its own spike, freight and logistics industry concern about state government overreach is high.


Read how tensions ran high in August over the SA border restrictions, here


The Transport Workers Union (TWU) wants assurances that truck drivers have the protections they need, with mandatory testing of truck drivers planned and if further restrictions are imposed.

TWU SA/NT branch secretary Ian Smith emphasises that drivers need to be able to continue doing their jobs as essential workers transporting vital goods around the country.

"We support any measures that keep the community safe during the pandemic, but we urge that truckies are given the protections they need to continue doing their jobs," Smith says.

"We want assurances that drivers will be able to cross the border to deliver the food, fuel, medicines and other goods they are transporting.

"Drivers must be paid if they are forced to wait for lengthy delays and they must have pandemic leave if they need to self-isolate. 

"Government agencies need to be mindful of the reality of the job for truckies. Many are on the road for several days at a time and significant delays on the border will impact on fatigue.

"Permits requirements must also take into account drivers out on the road with loads ready to cross borders. Information on how and where they can access permits must be timely and clear.

"We also need assurances that whatever restrictions are put in place that drivers are able to continue accessing truck stops with showers, meals and rest areas still open. We do not want to see a repeat of the situation earlier in the year where drivers were not able to access these facilities when crossing into states."

 

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