Driver rest areas and food availability under threat


The TWU and ATA are calling for protections and support for truck drivers on highways

Driver rest areas and food availability under threat
Michael Kaine

 

As parts of the trucking industry and supporters were gearing up to demand better treatment for truck drivers, the Transport Workers’ Union  (TWU) has made its feeling plain to relevant ministers as many of them moved to close their borders.

The union continues to call on the federal and state governments to ensure truck drivers have the protections they need against the coronavirus, and to mandate rest stops to stay open for drivers.

It has written to all mainland states and territories affected by border closures calling for information on what protective equipment, such as hand sanitisers and gloves, interstate drivers are being supplied with.

The union also wants assurances that drivers will be able to access rest stops, decent food and clean showers during the crisis.

"For truck drivers, the situation is getting critical as states close their borders and impose self-isolation measures on anyone entering," TWU national secretary Michael Kaine says.

"The exception is truck drivers who will continue to keep goods moving across borders.

"This does not come without risks. 

"Truck drivers on average are older and have underlying health issues which make them vulnerable to coronavirus.

"We are appealing to state government to ensure truck drivers have access to masks, gloves, disinfectant when crossing borders and that truck stops stay open to allow them to eat, rest and take showers which are disinfected and clean.

"We are alarmed at reports that some rest stops are closing and that drivers are finding they can only take away food, which in some cases involves snacks not meals.

"We want to see governments recognising the vital job truck drivers are doing and take responsibility to ensure they have what they need."

The union insists governments also need to ensure owner drivers and transport operators were able to stay in business to keep goods moving.

 "We want to see owner-drivers and operators paid on time by the retailers and manufacturers moving their goods so drivers can keep their trucks well-maintained and fuelled," Kaine says.

"Truck drivers are the backbone of the economy and this crisis has reminded everyone just how critical they are. Now more than ever we need to support them."

The TWU has written to state governments requesting:

  • clarity about any measures in place at border crossings to check trucks and truck drivers crossing, whether this includes temperature checks on drivers, etc
  • assurances that truck drivers will be supplied at these border crossing with hand sanitisers, masks, gloves and information
  • clarity on any measures in place for truck drivers when they enter the state to protect themselves and others
  • assurances that truck stops will stay open so that drivers can still access rest areas for food and showers. We are concerned about stops only offering take away services
  • assurances that showers and rest areas at truckstops for truck drivers will be cleaned and disinfected adequately
  • clarity regarding the use of two-up driving arrangements, with the possibility of other arrangements being preferred to promote social distancing
  • assistance in ensuring that clients pay owner-drivers and transport operators on time.
  • assurances that owner-drivers who are in financial distress are given financial assistance.

The TWU shows ATN a letter with these same points, addressed  to Queensland transport minister Mark Bailey and dated March 24.

The TWU says its demands follow a united stance among operators and industry bodies last week to call for protections to ensure transport remained a viable industry. 


Read about the hue and cry for proper treatment of truck drivers, here


Meanwhile, the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) has commended BP for saying its facilities will remain open but insisting truck drivers must have access to toilet and shower facilities.

"In a time where truck drivers are working harder than ever to deliver essential goods to communities across the country, we’re being told that they cannot access the proper facilities needed to support them in their role," ATA chair Geoff Crouch says.

"I have been given firsthand reports from operators where their drivers have arrived at roadhouses only to find the facilities were shut, whilst some customers’ receiving points have distributed notifications saying that toilets are not available for non-staff. 

"Not only is this unfair and unreasonable, it is a humanitarian issue. 

"Drivers are putting themselves on the frontline to keep Australia moving, yet they do not have access to basic human rights."

The ATA believes it is critical all parties in the supply chain and the wider community give truck drivers the support they need. 

"We are all in this together," Crouch says. 

ATA CEO Ben Maguire has called for the community and industry customers to have empathy for truck drivers, after driving along the Hume Highway this week in the ATA Safety Truck. 

"During this challenging time, we need to consider those who are out on the roads on the frontline," Maguire says.

"Their access to services is being severely diminished while their pressure to perform is increasing. 

"Men and women of the trucking industry share the same fears we all hold about coronavirus, but at this time, they are not being provided with the basic essentials."

BP’s announcement outlines a range of social distancing and hygiene measures that includes the removal of seating.

This appears to be a broad measure at truck stops.

One truck driver took to ATN’s social media to explain: "I’ve just done Melbourne to Sydney up the Hume then to Brisbane up the coast road and back down the Newell to Melbourne.

"You can get food everywhere to take away, but all dining facilities are closed, so you eat outside or in your truck, but there’s nowhere to sit down inside or out, they’ve stacked the tables and chairs up and taped them off.

"Sit in your truck or stand and eat is it."

BP’s measures can be found here.

WA biosecurity form

And senator Glenn Sterle has hihglighted changes to truck-driver entry requirements for Western Australia.

"As of 9pm last night (AWST) all truck drivers seeking to cross the Western Australian border will need to complete a Biosecurity Travel Form to enter designated biosecurity areas which have been imposed by the West Australian Government to limit the spread of Covid-19," Sterle warns.

"Forms will be provided to drivers by officers at check points.

"Cam Dumesny, CEO of the Western Roads Federation has put together some very helpful and important information on the new restrictions which can be found here: https://mailchi.mp/12ecc74e34c2/coronavirus-2643684

"I would like to acknowledge the Western Australian Government for the proactive steps that they have taken and Cam from the Western Roads Federation for his leadership and the work that he and his office are doing to ensure that drivers have access to the most up to date information available."

 

 

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