Trucking industry bodies irate over border closure restrictions

By: Rob McKay


Organisations united over mystifying NSW government approach

Trucking industry bodies irate over border closure restrictions
Warren Clark

 

The National Road Transport Association (NatRoad) has voiced concern at the confusion around how road freight is supposed to comply with New South Wales border control strictures and do its job.

NatRoad charges that there is a disconnect between initial understandings of state government intentions on Victorian border controls and the present reality.

"What was floated was that there would be no permits for freight, there would be a special laneway for truck and this sort of thing, which hasn’t eventuated," CEO Warren Clark says.

"So, there’s quite a bit of confusion."

Clark points out that there are examples that have been underway in other states.

"We have a system that goes into Queensland that seemed to work well – why didn’t they adopt that system?" he asks, while mentioning that Western Australia also has a permit system that NSW might have taken on.

He points out that, under the new rules, individuals must apply for a permit and businesses are unable to, while mandatory self-isolation is difficult to do for truck drivers.

"They also say you must have an address for where you are going to be in NSW," Clark says.

"Well, if you’re sleeping in your truck or returning that night, there is no address.

"If you don’t fill these things out, you don’t get a permit."

He is also concerned that within the permit application system, there is little to indicate that freight is exempt from certain controls, thereby inviting confusion amongst drivers.

With $11,000 fines and six months in prison offered for getting it wrong, truck drivers are bound to take a conservative line.

ATA objections

New South Wales health minister Brad Hazzard must immediately review the state’s border controls, Australian Trucking Association (ATA) CEO Ben Maguire insists.

Maguire makes the call after what the ATA describes as a day and a night of confusion at the border and in trucking company offices. 

"In implementing the border controls, Minister Hazzard ignored the proven success of Queensland’s border controls and decided to invent a NSW-specific system without input from trucking businesses and their staff," he says.

"Throughout the day on 7 July, we were advised that NSW would not require truck drivers to apply for border crossing permits. 

"But Minister Hazzard’s direction requires truck drivers to apply – through an online form with a host of issues – and then reapply every two weeks. 

"The NSW direction also requires drivers crossing the border into NSW to self-isolate for 14 days.  

"It’s completely unclear what this means. Let’s take a truck driver who lives in NSW and whose job involves loading wheat in western Victoria and delivering it to a NSW flour mill.  

"Does the driver have to move out of home and into quarantine for an indefinite time? We just don’t know." 

ATA says it accepts the need to close the border. 

"The NSW Health Department and Service NSW need to listen to the industry and Transport for NSW to make the border controls clearer and less complicated," Maguire says. 

"To start with, trucks need to have clear passage across the border without the need for permits. If permits are necessary, they should be issued for six weeks, not two. 

"And Minister Hazzard needs to clarify the self-isolation requirements as a matter of urgency.  

"What this country, and our community, need right now is certainty and confidence. 

"We are calling on Minister Hazzard to provide our industry with that."

Road Freight NSW

Road Freight NSW (RFNSW) is seeking clarification from the NSW government on the current self-isolation requirements for truck drivers returning from a Victorian border crossing.

As part of the Service NSW border crossing permit application process, drivers are advised that they will be ‘required to self-isolate when I am not performing my duties’ and that ‘not following these rules is a criminal offence and attracts heavy penalties’.

RFNSW chief executive Simon O’Hara says the regulation was causing concern amongst RFNSW members already facing significant operational challenges during the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Our members need to know what the self-isolation edict means in practice," O’Hara says.

"Quite rightly, they’ve been deemed as critical service workers and therefore cannot be expected to be off the road. It’s simply unworkable.

"Transport operators have been abiding with social distancing and hygiene practices as part of their day-to-day operations during the pandemic and believe they should be allowed to cross the Victorian border without issues of self-isolation upon their return.

"As a matter of urgency, RFNSW is raising the issue with the NSW government, as we need clarity for drivers and business owners.

"Exactly what will drivers need to do after a border crossing and how will forcing drivers off the road impact deliveries of essential food and grocery supplies?

"At the moment, the policy is too ambiguous, leaving our members with too many questions

"So far, the transport industry has done a great job throughout the COVID-19 response, but this decision to force drivers into self-isolation is causing angst for our men and women on the road."

Victorian Transport Association

The Victorian Transport Association (VTA) is also searching for solutions to ease dislocations.

It is "working closely with state governments to try and resolve issues at the Victorian border with New South Wales that are holding up the free and efficient movement of freight between these vital jurisdictions.

"Since the border was closed at midnight, we have been made aware of inconsistencies that have arisen with respect to the issuance and enforcement of border permits, and the procedures transport workers carrying out their work as a critical service are required to comply with.

"Many of the practical requirements are simply unworkable for heavy vehicle drivers, such as the requirement isolate while in NSW, when to quarantine for 14 days and the requirement to renew permits every two weeks.

"We are articulating these concerns to key stakeholders in the hope that they see sense and make the changes that are necessary for a smoother and more free flowing and safe way for freight drivers to cross the border."

Transport Workers Union

After two days of calling for appreciation of truck-driver’s needs and suggestions to that end, the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) is furious that its concerns appear to be turning into reality.

The union says it is demanding answers from the NSW Government as truck drivers are being issued with 14-day isolation notices as they plan to cross the border from Victoria into NSW.

The TWU’s NSW and Victorian branch secretaries wrote to the NSW premier yesterday seeking assurances on continual access to roadhouses for truck drivers.


TWU seeking continued roadhouse access for truckies


Despite holding permits and falling into the category of "critical services", drivers are being issued with notices stating "you will be required to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival in NSW".

TWU Victoria/Tasmania branch secretary John Berger is seeking clarity and a remedy to the confusion around the permit notices being issued to truck drivers commuting from Victoria to New South Wales.

 "The NSW Government has serious questions to answer in regards to the ambiguous language put forth on the permit notices regarding the 14-day isolation period. We seek clarity from the NSW government about these isolation notices and call on the NSW government to end this practice immediately," Berger says.

"The TWU supports any measures that protect the community during the pandemic but truck drivers must be able to pass through the border to continue their work.

"This problem will disrupt supply chains across the country and could have a far-reaching knock-on effect for the wider economy."

"Drivers are trying to do their jobs and are taking precautions to limit the spread of the virus.

"Throughout our union, drivers have crossed closed borders for several months now as part of the essential service they provide.

"Their work in doing this has been recognised and applauded. What the NSW government is doing is ill-thought-out and damaging."

Border Permit Type A[7][1][1].png

 

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