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SA border issues continue as Victoria clarifies facility numbers

Struggle within and outside governments to rationalise Covid-19 rules


With the Australian Logistics Council (ALC) calling for the states to put their border control rationalisation into practice, industry groups are battling for an understanding with South Australian police on treatment of drivers arriving from Victoria.

And on a more positive note, the Victorian government has offered clarity on trucking facility staffing rules.

The National Road Transport Association (NatRoad) reports trucks using the Dukes/Western Highway last night and this morning being turned back when drivers have been unable to they had undergone Covid-19 testing in the past seven days.

“Police have stated that there had been cases of drivers with multiple entries into South Australia over the last few weeks who could not provide evidence of a test being undertaken as required or a confirmed appointment to have a test within 24 hours,” NatRoad says.

“Hence, drivers have been turned away. 

“While acknowledging that getting tested is problematic for Victorian drivers, it is a requirement that a test should be obtained while in South Australia before returning across the state border.”

NatRoad has been in discussions with the SA Road Transport Association (SARTA) and the federal and South Australian governments “impressing upon them the significance of this occurrence and seeking an early resolution to this issue”.

NatRoad understands that this matter is currently under discussion with SA Police (SAPOL).

“In essence, for those members who have drivers at, close to, or approaching the South Australian border at Dukes/Western Highway, please advise them to remain calm while the matter is being progressed and to try and cross again on the basis of getting a test within SA,” NatRoad says. 

“If there have been multiple prior entries without evidence of a test being undertaken at present SAPOL is saying they won’t be allowed to enter. 

“The reason is that they have been directed to get a test within the last 24 hours and the police are saying these drivers have breached that direction.

“We are asking for the urgent establishment of a testing facility for heavy vehicles at Bordertown.

“In the meantime, testing of those drivers who have been previously directed to get tested but haven’t should be undertaken.”

As border issues continue to be grappled with, the ALC continues to pressure governments to abide by the agreements they sign up for – in particular, last Friday’s Freight Movement Code, which follows the July 24 Freight Movement Protocol, which the states are charged with ignoring.

“The freight and logistics industry has engaged proactively with governments at all levels over the past two weeks to help make this Code happen,” ALC CEO Kirk Coningham says.

“However, our supply chains can’t afford for the Code to be a document that is signed and ignored. Industry needs state and territory governments to make certain the Code delivers what it promised – greater consistency between states and territories in their implementation of border controls.

“ALC welcomes the Code’s commitment to integrating testing into driver schedules and to ensuring symptomatic and asymptomatic people are kept separated at testing sites.

“The confirmation that workers will not need to go into quarantine or formal self-isolation in any jurisdiction is also especially important in minimising disruptions to freight movement. ALC also welcomes the Code’s commitment to the mutual recognition of COVIDSafe workplans between jurisdictions.

“All of these measures are very useful commitments – but only if governments follow through and deliver them. The least desirable outcome is a national Code that still leaves us with six or seven different regimes for freight and logistics personnel crossing borders.

“Freight and logistics operators require as much consistency as possible – and that needs state and territory governments to work pragmatically to ensure that testing requirements can be met.

“In particular, ALC strongly urges the Victorian government to open testing to asymptomatic freight workers as quickly as possible, given that a number of other states have already mandated testing every seven days, or have indicated they will do so.

“With the extraordinary pressures on Victoria’s testing capacity at present, it may be appropriate for the federal government to provide the state with some additional support to help make this happen, in the interests of national supply chain efficiency.”

“ALC remains deeply concerned that not providing testing for asymptomatic drivers in Victoria will make it extraordinarily difficult for freight workers to meet border requirements imposed by other states and could lead to supply chain disruptions.”

Read about the Freight Movement Code’s emergence, here

SARTA notes there has been some movement from SAHealth following efforts seeking better Covid-19 testing facilities and opening times in the state.

The department has advised that SA Pathology’s mobile collection services provide free Covid-19 testing for interstate truck drivers and interstate travellers requiring swabs. No booking required.

  • Port Augusta – Puma Port Augusta Truckstop, National Highway 1 (8.00am – 11.00pm, 7 days)
  • Tailem Bend – Tasco Caltex Tailem Bend Roadhouse, 8786 Princes Highway (8.00am – 4.00pm, 7 days)
  • Yamba – Yamba Quarantine Station, National Highway A20 (7.00am – 9.00pm, 7 days)

SARTA says it is due to meet with senior SAHealth officials to discuss details of the implementation of the Cross Border Freight Movement Code.

Meanwhile, in Victoria, the Victorian Transport Association (VTA) sought to clarify to members yesterday details related to the weekend’s appearance of that state government’s ‘High Risk COVID Safe Plan’.

Related to the move to Melbourne’s Stage 4 lockdowns, the release had failed to go over smoothly in the industry.

It had “created a great deal of confusion and anxiety due to variances of wording between the new High Risk COVID Safe Plan and the COVID Safe Plan that businesses that are eligible to continue trading must have in place”, VTA CEO Peter Anderson says. 

“While it is pleasing to talk to so many companies that are trying to do the right thing and ensure they comply with the directions, the variance in wording has made compliance difficult and open to interpretation.” 

Anderson notes the following information has now been confirmed through Freight Victoria and through the Department of Premier and Cabinet. 

Freight operations is a permitted industry. The only business operating reductions within Transport, Postal and Warehousing relate to warehouses and distribution centres. These restrictions can be viewed at this link. Outside of the restrictions for warehouses and distribution centres, no other restrictions apply beyond operating in accordance with a COVID Safe Plan

“The direction for reduction of the workforce in warehousing and distribution centres does NOT include transport, loading and unloading and vehicle maintenance operations. Transport fleets and vehicles can continue to operate under the demand and workload they are currently operating under and do not have to meet the direction of reduction by 33%.” 

The association has created a VTA Coronavirus Information Page for information and updates.

Victoria’s High Risk COVID Safe Plan details can be found here.


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