Opinion: Message to governments, Don't stop there

By: Warren Clark


The job’s not yet done by governments to keep us all moving ahead

Opinion: Message to governments, Don't stop there
Warren Clark

 

The most consistent thing about our National Cabinet is its ability to act inconsistently.

That’s why the announcement that the states and territories had accepted an industry package of streamlined Covid-19 measures to keep road freight moving means there’s still much more to do.

State and territory governments agreeing to an updated Freight Movement Protocol and Code is one thing, but nothing sticks until it’s written into their respective health orders.

Prior to this, NatRoad wrote to state transport ministers to asking them to consider a Five-Point Plan of practical measures for border passes, checkpoints and Covid testing.

Although some requests have been taken on, the fundamental problem of national inconsistency remains.

For example, at the time of writing freight drivers crossing into Queensland and New South Wales need proof of a negative Covid-19 test in a rolling seven-day period, but South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia still have different rules.

I’m reminded of the example of a truck driver who was tested at drive-through facility at Dubbo at 3pm on a Sunday, heading towards the Queensland border via Bourke with a load of fodder.

By the time he arrived at the Goondiwindi checkpoint on the Tuesday, he still had not received his test result.

Parked on the side of the road, he was told by authorised officers that by the time his result arrived, it would be invalid under Queensland’s then-rule for three-day testing. The only solution was for him to return to Bourke to take a new test.


Read Warren Clark's earlier plea for consistency at borders, here


I’m not being overly critical of the people on the border. They have a job to do.

But a situation like that could have been avoided if they’d approved rapid antigen testing, a fast and appropriate testing mechanism, and it was accepted as valid proof that the driver was virus-free.

If we can’t have rapid antigen testing at borders now, let’s fast-track results for heavy vehicle operators from current testing, in line with our industry’s status as an essential service.

It’s hard for health officials who make the rules to understand the unintended impact of impractical regulations on the operations of a driver. I’m glad two states relented on three-day testing.

But the bottom line surely is that we need a central system of passes and QR codes so that every driver can stick to the rules.

Most states have agreed to open more testing facilities along key freight routes, but we want those centres to be open 24-hours where there is demand and, where possible, to have an accompanying vaccination hub.

Major highways at border points must include a dedicated truck lane wherever practical, separated from motor vehicles, to allow easy and safe movement of heavy vehicles whose drivers have appropriate passes.

It’s something that has worked in the past at the NSW-Victoria crossing.

As much as we all wish it were different, Covid isn’t going away - it’s time to get these rules right in the interests of us all being safer and more efficient.

Warren Clark is the CEO of the National Road Transport Association (NatRoad) 

 

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  1. Open Road SeptDon’t stop thereThe job’s not yet doneby governmentsto keep us all movingaheadWarren ClarkThe most consistent thing about our National Cabinet is its ability to act inconsistently.That’s why the announcement that thestates andterritories had accepted an industry package ofstreamlined Covid-19 measures to keep road freight moving means there’s still much more to do.State andterritory governments agreeing to an updated Freight Movement Protocol and Code is onething, but nothing sticks until it’s written into their respective health orders.Prior to this, NatRoad wrote to state transport ministers to asking them to consider a Five-Point Planof practical measures for border passes, checkpoints and Covid testing.Although some requests have been taken on, the fundamental problem of national inconsistencyremains.For example, at the time of writing freight drivers crossing into Queensland and New South Walesneed proof of a negative Covid-19 test in a rolling seven-day period, butSouth Australia, Victoria andWestern Australia still have different rules.I’m reminded of the example of a truck driver who was tested at drive-through facility at Dubbo at3pm on a Sunday, heading towards the Queensland border via Bourke with a load offodder.By the time he arrived at the Goondiwindi checkpoint on the Tuesday, he still had not received histest result.Parked on the side of the road, he was told by authorised officers that by the time his result arrived,it would be invalid under Queensland’s then-rule for three-day testing. The only solution was for himto return to Bourke to take a new test.I’m not being overly critical of the people on the border. They have a job to do.But a situation like that could have been avoided if they’d approved rapid antigen testing, a fast andappropriate testing mechanism,and it was accepted as valid proof that the driver was virus-free.If we can’t have rapid antigen testing at borders now, let’s fast-track results for heavy vehicleoperators from current testing,in line with our industry’s status as an essential service.It’s hard for health officials who make the rules to understand the unintended impact of impracticalregulations on the operations of a driver. I’m glad two States relented on three-day testing.But the bottom line surely is that we need a central system of passes and QR codes so that everydriver can stick to the rules.
  2. Moststates have agreed to open more testing facilities along key freight routes, but we want thosecentres to be open 24-hours where there is demand and, where possible, to have an accompanyingvaccination hub.Major highways at border points must include a dedicated truck lane wherever practical, separatedfrom motor vehicles, to allow easy and safe movement of heavy vehicles whose drivers haveappropriate passes.It’s something that has worked in the past at the NSW-Victoria crossing.As much as we all wish it were different, COVID isn’t going away-it’s time to get these rules right inthe interests of us all being safer and more efficient.Warren Clark is the CEO of the National Road Transport Association (NatRoad)
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