NSW moves on border closure freight permits


Toole gains high praise from rail peak body for transport efforts

NSW moves on border closure freight permits
Paul Toole

 

An air of relief has swept the eastern state freight world as New South Wales begins to make good on its promise to treat freight properly during the border closure to Victoria.

The mood brightens as Transport for NSW gives the industry some certainty that changes are afoot.

"After reviewing the criteria for critical services permits yesterday, NSW will be creating an additional permit, to better support critical workers in the Freight and Transport sector and to clarify terms and conditions," its Freight Industry Newsletter states.

"This permit will allow people within the freight and transport industry to be able to travel between NSW and Victoria for the purpose of their duties, providing their employer has a Covid-19 Safety Plan and will not require them to self-isolate.

"The NSW Government has commenced the development of the new permit, which will be live through Service NSW by close of business today, Thursday 9 July.  Covid-Safe  plans and guidelines to assist the industry are also available to align with this additional permit at nsw.gov.au/covid/covid-safe-businesses.

"In the meantime, Freight and Transport workers will still require the current critical services permit to enter NSW, but will not be held to account for any form of self-isolation. We are working to ensure the smooth facilitation of this change over the next 24 hours.

"Consistent with the need to prepare a Covid-19 Safety Plan, Transport for NSW is asking freight operators to be conscious of the significantly increased health risk in Victoria, to please take extra care and ensure that you are vigilant in practising physical distancing, minimising contact and maintaining good hygiene practices to limit the spread of the Coronavirus."


Read about the industry concern over the initial border rules, here


The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) has welcomed the decision.

"The new permit will allow truck drivers to travel between NSW and Victoria to carry out their work duties without the requirement to self-isolate, providing their employer has a Covid-19 Safety Plan," ATA CEO Ben Maguire says.

"Drivers were being directed to self-isolate for 14 days upon entering NSW, which was impractical. In some cases, the direction was not consistent with the official health order.

"We thank the NSW Government and Transport for NSW for listening to industry and their swift action in rectifying the issue."

Maguire says that in addition to the need for a Covid-19 Safety Plan, drivers are asked to take extra care.

"Truck drivers should ensure they practice physical distancing, minimise contact and maintain good hygiene practices to limit the spread of the coronavirus," he adds.

"If drivers show symptoms of Covid-19, they should not be required to come to work.

"The ATA is working with the NSW Government on the details of the new permit to make sure it works as smoothly as possible, as well as a series of other border control issues."

The Victorian Transport Association (VTA) notes that  freight and transport workers will still require the current critical services permit to enter NSW but will not be held to account for any form of self-isolation.

"Service NSW assures us they are working to ensure the smooth facilitation of this change over the next 24 hours," VTA CEO Peter Anderson says in an advisory.

The good feeling extends to the rail mode, which singles out the NSW regional roads minister for special praise.

"Freight on Rail Group (FORG) of Australia today congratulated the NSW Government, notably Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Paul Toole, for delivering sensible and streamlined rules for movement of essential freight train crews and services across the Victorian-NSW border," peak body Freight on Rail Group (FORG) of Australia chair Dean Dalla Valle says.

"Minister Paul Toole’s office has been outstanding in its support of our sector during this challenging event, including recognising the need for NSW regional train crews to occasionally cross the border in cars into Victoria to reach intermodal container or bulk grain rail services.

"In another scenario, after a delivery run, a freight train driver may have to cross the border by car to get back home because a return (back load) rail service has been cancelled or delayed by network constraints.

"Rail maintenance workers, terminal staff and safety compliance officers also need to regularly cross the Victorian-NSW border in cars to service and supervise essential freight train operations.

"The Minister and his key agency staff immediately understood and appreciated these nuanced, daily practical requirements of our sector.

"From day one of the lockdown he strongly advocated within government for freight to flow freely across the Victorian-NSW border.

"He also understood the logistical difficulty of forcing hundreds of train crews to self-isolate for 14-days each time they crossed the border on a freight delivery run."

The Transport Workers' Union (TWU) allowed it some cautious optimism about the move it want in force by the close of business today.

"We will be keeping a close eye on the situation at the Victorian and New South Wales border to ensure a clear passage of freight between the two states," Victoria/Tasmania branch secretary John Berger says.

"We know that transport workers are essential workers and often what they are carrying are essential goods.

"All levels of Government must ensure truck drivers can continue to do their jobs without any bureaucratic red tape." 

 

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