Mixed transport feedback over Melbourne Stage 4 lockdown

HVIA argues against a New Zealand-style move as VTA welcomes freight understanding

Mixed transport feedback over Melbourne Stage 4 lockdown
HVIA chief executive Todd Hacking


Concern mixed with support has flowed from truck-related interests in the wake of Victoria’s move to stage 4 pandemic restrictions for Melbourne.

Heavy Vehicle Industry Australia (HVIA) has once more urged the Victorian government to avoid what it sees as the errors New Zealand made in its comprehensive lockdown earlier this year.

And the Victorian Transport Association (VTA) has backed premier Daniel Andrews’ recognition of the intrinsic nature of transport and supply-chains during the announcement of a tighter lockdown.

With a business impacts statement looming, HVIA sees mirroring the original New Zealand model as risking devastation to the Victorian and national economies.

"The Premier is having to make incredibly hard decisions to keep Victorians safe in the face of the formidable challenges resulting from this pandemic," chief executive Todd Hacking says.

"We have asked the premier to exempt freight and the heavy vehicle supply chain, including, manufacturers, component suppliers and businesses involved in the design, service, repair, maintenance and engineering support for heavy vehicles.

"However, the media speculation has been enough to make HVIA members nervous, particularly given how disastrous the NZ Government’s decision proved to be in the first instance for the heavy vehicle industry.

"While the New Zealand government exempted freight and heavy vehicle repair and maintenance providers, other critical parts of the supply chain were forced to close — such as manufacturers and component suppliers.

"This was initially due to the urgency of the shutdown but the NZ government had to repeatedly make changes as the unintended consequences became apparent.

"Just about all heavy vehicle manufacturers and suppliers provide ongoing product support and technical guidance once the part or component is operational or the vehicle is on the road.

"If these businesses were shutdown, the flow on effect would quickly have significant national consequences as Victoria has the highest concentration of heavy vehicle businesses in the country.

"Without these businesses open and trading, the heavy vehicle fleet will likely be compromised and the freight supply chain across the country will suffer significant delays, which will fuel panic and anxiety within the community."

Hacking notes HVIA members had responded proactively to the threat of Covid-19 and had taken various precautions to ensure the safety of their personnel.

"The Kenworth factory closed for four weeks whilst changes were made to the assembly line to ensure the one person per four square metres rule could be adhered to," he says.

"Other measures taken by HVIA members in Victoria include, daily temperature checking, lunch-room closures, split shifts, investments in technology, increased cleaning and sanitation, working from home arrangements, and operational COVIDsafe plans to ensure staff and customers remain safe."

Hacking adds that that HVIA has been impressed with the Victorian government’s response to the rising health challenge, noting that Andrews clearly articulated the need to use a deep dive into the health data to activate any escalation to Stage 4 and highlighted that many of the current cases have been in industries that are and would remain operational under any further response," he says.

"In his comments yesterday, the premier also acknowledged how Victorian ports support the national freight task and clearly understood the importance of the supply chain that supports freight and logistics.

"All of these businesses play a vital role in keeping the nation’s heavy vehicles on the road and safe."

WorkSafe Victoria's COVID-19 disclosure requirement

The VTA says it acknowledges "the enormous amount of work the Victorian government is doing to prioritise and protect the nation’s supply chains" as it strengthens restrictions across the state to stop the spread of coronavirus.

It insists Andrews is right to emphasise the complexity of national supply chains and that Melbourne has the biggest container port in Australia, in response to questions about further work restrictions that would be introduced.

"Transport is an essential service and it is encouraging that the Victorian Government is doing a power of work and working with the freight industry to ensure we can continue to operate safely and productively," VTA CEO Peter Anderson says.

"The premier clearly gets that the nation cannot afford to shut down because of what’s happening in Victoria.

"Since coronavirus took hold in February, the transport industry has shown leadership and adapted its systems and processes to be able to safely and efficiently service the needs of customers and consumers and keep supply chains moving.

"As Victorians prepare for further restrictions to their lives and livelihoods, we urge them to heed the advice of state and Commonwealth jurisdictions so that we can reduce community transition and start to get our economy back on a positive footing as soon as possible."

Anderson also reassures Victorians the transport industry will continue to deliver fresh food, groceries, medicine, fuel and other essential goods to see the community through tougher restrictions.

"What we don’t want to see is a run on supermarkets over the next few days before the new restrictions come into effect because it is completely unnecessary," he says.

"Distribution centres have ample supplies to maintain consumer demand so there is no need for panic buying like we saw earlier in the year when the pandemic first hit."

The Stage 4 restrictions can be found here


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