Freight testing hub calls amid Fairfield gridlock

Delivery disruption and income concerns to the fore after snap Sydney decision

Freight testing hub calls amid Fairfield gridlock
Industry voices its concern at the impact of the latest testing regime


Footage of huge Covid-19 testing lines in Sydney’s Fairfield local government area has prompted trucking and logistics bodies to ponder the problems and potential solutions.

With the recent mandate that all essential workers from the LGA must be tested every three days, Road Freight NSW (RFNSW) and its members have raised concerns local freight workers will be financially impacted and vital supply chains disrupted.

CEO Simon O’Hara said RFNSW supports the NSW government’s efforts in controlling the latest outbreak across Sydney but was seeking a better explanation on how the mandated testing will work for truck drivers delivering food, groceries and other essentials during the pandemic.

"Truckies south west and western Sydney are understandably very anxious that they lose hours and precious income if they have to queue in Covid testing centres every three days," O’Hara said.

How freight worker testing requirements ramped up yesterday, here

"Pulling drivers off the road for any length of time will quickly deplete the local workforce, disrupt supply chains and only result in added costs to goods and services.

"The transport industry has been on the frontline throughout the pandemic, delivering essential food, groceries and medicines to depots and supermarkets across NSW, which is why it’s imperative that the government ensures that truckies can continue their work and aren’t forced off the road.

"We’re calling on the government to engage with and communicate with industry on the new orders and ensure that Covid testing centres are accessible and fully resourced, so that truckies aren’t forced to wait around every three days for testing and results.

"This latest outbreak again demonstrates why transport workers must have prioritised access to the vaccine roll-out, so they are protected and keep working, minimising potential disruptions to the delivery of essential food, groceries and medicines."

The mandate also makes an unlikely alliance of the Australian Logistics Council (ALC) and Transport Workers Union NSW (TWU NSW) branch, which expressed a similar sentiment and urged the NSW government to set up on-site Covid testing facilities at key freight terminals and on more arterial routes around the state.

As part of its calls, the TWU NSW wants NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian to set up testing hubs urgently so transport workers can get tested for Covid quickly rather than waiting in long queues before their shifts.

"This has been a shambles for transport workers battling to do their jobs and comply with the testing order," TWU NSW branch secretary Richard Olsen said.

"We are calling for testing hubs in or close to places of work and better consultation when strict rules like this come into place.

"The NSW government must make ensure that essential workers are not hampered going about their work and that there is as little stress on them as possible.

"It’s hard enough being out on the frontline during a frightening outbreak of a deadly viral strain while most people can stay at home without having additional burdens placed on them."

The ALC noted its members have implemented highly effective CovidSafe plans and are committed to the safety and wellbeing of their workers, with the supply chain going "above and beyond to minimise the risk of transmission and support the Australian community through the supply of essential goods and services".

"ALC and its members are acutely aware of their commitments under the National Freight Protocol and are encouraging all freight workers to ensure they undertake frequent COVID testing in line with health advice or at a minimum every seven days, whichever is more frequent," ALC interim CEO Rachel Smith said.

There are some freight specific testing centres throughout the state but more are needed in other critical locations to ensure the movement of essential goods continues uninterrupted, ALC noted, adding that these centres could also be used to vaccinate essential freight workers.

"Australia cannot risk the shutdown of distribution centres or a reduction in heavy vehicle and train drivers and rail maintenance workers.

"Ensuring the continued flow of the nation’s food, medical, and essential goods supplies should be a priority."

Meanwhile, O’Hara said RFNSW continues to be angered by feedback from drivers who have been banned from using service station toilets and rest-areas during the latest Covid outbreak and has vowed to ‘name and shame’ any business or individual who tries to deny drivers their usual access to facilities.

"Our truckies deserve basic decency and respect while they perform their essential service for our community during these tough times," O’Hara said.

"It is important that we all reflect that we are able to continue to work from home and have food and groceries on the supermarket shelves because of truckies working through a pandemic."


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