Bordering on frustration

By: Frank Black

OPINION: Where is the common sense in COVID-19 border closures as road transport suffers lengthy delays?

Bordering on frustration
Queensland lacks a "truck only" lane at its borders


A return to lockdown has been another blow to our economy, but this time around the element of surprise has been removed.

Whether or not a second wave could have been prevented is beyond my expertise, nonetheless, we were warned of the possibility long before the first wave was over.

So why, this time around, have we seen border closures become an even bigger mess than they were a few months ago?

When there was a shortage of toilet paper, tinned food and pasta, all eyes turned to the truckies. Now that supermarket shelves have resumed a sense of normality, is trucking no longer an essential service?

The state of New South Wales didn’t seem to think so, when they closed their border with Victoria and expected truck drivers passing through the state to self-isolate for 14 days. The ridiculous notion only lasted a couple of days and following campaigning from the Transport Workers’ Union, NSW introduced a new permit to allow truckies to pass through. But rather than all that effort, all that was needed was common sense.

How out of touch do you have to be to expect truck drivers moving freight from one end of the country to another, running to tight deadlines with an ever-increasing push for immediate deliveries, to be able to set aside 14 days each time we pass through a state? Not to mention that those 14 days would be spent away from our homes, our families, and inside the cab of a truck – where we already spend more time than our own beds.

States continue with border crossing rule changes

We all need to do our bit to protect ourselves and others during this pandemic and I, like most truckies, have been carrying disinfectant, gloves and masks with me to limit the risk of spread when picking up and dropping off loads.

We also need food, medicines and supplies. And we’re not going to get them to where they need to be with truck drivers stuck in the wrong state.

In the first wave of cases and closures, we continued to pass through states with little fuss. This time around, common sense is lacking in every way.

It’s laughable; only the humour disappears when you recall how valuable time is to an owner-driver. We don’t sit in offices with photocopiers at the ready to scan licenses and spend hours filling out forms. We’re just trying to get from A to B as quickly and safely as possible, to fulfil our duties to the contract and maintain good relationships to pick up more work in the future.

These days we probably spend more time ringing each other to try and make sense of these confusing changes than we do getting the rest we need to do our jobs safely.

Add to that an extra few hours spent in queues behind cars of holidaymakers trying to pass through closed borders. The Queensland border’s failure to cordon off a truck-only lane heaps the pressure on us to make up those hours on the road.

Every minute counts in the transport business. The last thing we need is hold ups keeping us from delivering on time. It just adds more pressure to the dangerous nature of our jobs.

We’ve been declared essential workers – although our work has not changed from what it has always been. The nation as we know it has always been reliant on trucking, it’s only during this time of stripping back our lives and reflecting on the essentials that the importance of our work has been acknowledged.

It’s time to apply that recognition and some intelligence to the systems around trucking that are making it difficult for us to just do our jobs.

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