Streamlined freight border control given green light

National Cabinet agrees on need for uniformity in supply chain border management

Streamlined freight border control given green light
Michael McCormack and Scott Buchholz


National Cabinet has endorsed a new protocol to address freight border crossing inconsistencies across different jurisdictions.

It has also agreed to upgrade the Domestic Border Control Freight Movement Protocol to an enforceable code by state and territory jurisdictions.

The protocol agrees "unanticipated delays at the border can have implications for safety on the roads and the health of critical transport workers" and states "greater consistency in border management of supply chains will assist industry to comply".

The protocol, endorsed by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee with the involvement of members of the Transport and Infrastructure Council (TIC), outlines measures that all States and Territories agree will allow freight to move safely and efficiently across borders.

For example, on managing risks of freight disruption to the community and economy, the protocol notes:

  • Border controls applying to heavy vehicle drivers, support workers and rail crew should be streamlined, standardised and recognised across jurisdictions wherever possible to ensure minimal disruption.
  • At road border check points, a dedicated freight lane, waive through of freight or prioritised entry should be provided where road conditions and infrastructure allows to minimise delays for heavy vehicles.
  • Where permits are required, the duration and conditions (including display) should be standardized and recognized across jurisdictions. Pre-approval processes and timeframes should enable companies to plan and schedule transport operations.
  • A clearly identified program of targeted checks based on assessed intelligence as well as random checks should be conducted at a level that does not unreasonably delay freight.
  • Permits for support workers where required should be expedited to ensure essential work, including heavy vehicle or train breakdowns, can be conducted without delay.
  • Heavy vehicle drivers and rail crew should not be required to quarantine or self-isolate for 14 days following a border crossing in relevant jurisdictions, unless they develop symptoms of COVID-19 or have been a close contact of someone who has COVID-19, or as directed by health authorities.
  • COVID-19 tests should be available at no cost to heavy vehicle drivers and rail crew whether or not symptoms are present if required by this protocol.

National Cabinet also agreed further work be carried out by jurisdictions on the implementation and enforcement of an industry code which, in conjunction with the protocol, will minimise risks and exposure to workers and the community from Covid-19.

Read the truck driver vigilance call over the Covid-19 spread, here

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack says all levels of government had worked to combine the best health advice with feedback from the transport industry.

"Freight operators keep Australia moving and we have seen them work tirelessly over the past few months in particular, keeping shelves stocked and the economy running by connecting businesses and goods to markets," McCormack says.

"They should not have to put their lives at risk, nor the lives of their families and friends, as they continue to work through this pandemic.

"That is why all Australian Governments have agreed to this new protocol, which outlines a number of essential health and safety standards and work practices which will keep our freight and supply chain safe, protecting operators and the Australian public.

"This is a great demonstration of how governments and industry are working together to ensure much-needed goods keep making their way to communities during the pandemic whilst keeping the health and safety of all Australians front and centre."

Assistant Minister for Road Safety and Freight Transport Scott Buchholz says the protocol paves a clearer path for freight moving across internal border controls.

"Having been involved in the freight industry for many years, I know just how vital our freight supply chain is to the lives of all Australians as it connects hard-working local businesses to markets," Buchholz says.

"Our freight industry underpins jobs, strengthens the national economy and secures our future prosperity.

"We know this has been tough a time for the industry, with our freight operators often required to cross multiple internal borders in a single trip – facing the critical domestic border controls State and Territory governments have had to operate to stem the spread of COVID-19.

"Aligning state and territory measures through this protocol will ensure smoother inter-state journeys for our freight operators and reduce delays in the supply chain."

The protocol has the backing of Australian Logistics Council (ALC) chief executive Officer Kirk Coningham, who says it is an example of what can be achieved when governments work collaboratively and quickly with industry.

"This is an excellent outcome delivering national consistency and clarity for freight," he says.

"This is a robust and timely policy built on mutual trust and understanding.

"During the pandemic, ALC has been actively engaged with our members, regulatory authorities and allied industry groups including state and territory-based trucking organisations to build support among governments for the very practical measures contained in this protocol. We are delighted to see those efforts have culminated in this agreement today.

"In particular, ALC has urged authorities to adopt a practical stance by facilitating the ‘waive through’ of freight vehicles at borders, providing dedicated lanes for freight vehicles at border check points and not requiring truck drivers or rail crews to quarantine or self-isolate when crossing borders if they have not developed COVID-19 symptoms."

"ALC is pleased that these principles are all enshrined in the protocol that has been agreed to today.

"We also welcome the protocol’s commitment to mutual recognition of COVIDsafe workplans developed in other jurisdictions, and to standardising the duration and conditions of border permits."

The protocol complements existing Work Health and Safety and fatigue management requirements, public health advice and COVIDSafe work plan requirements.

The protocol is available here.

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