Covid testing frustrations unite industry bodies

Increasingly unworkable interstate trucking mandates spark standardisation call

Covid testing frustrations unite industry bodies
Freight testing times and requirements are taking a toll

Exasperated at the collateral damage to industry caused by Australia’s pandemic response, its road transport associations have penned an open letter to governments seeking a re-think on the approach to interstate trucking regulation.

Endorsed by the National Road Transport Association (NatRoad), Northern Territory Road Transport Association (NTRTA), Tasmanian Transport Association (TTA), Victorian Transport Association (VTA), Queensland Trucking Association (QTA) and Western Roads Federation (WRF), the letter centres around the most recent testing regime fluctuations in response to the Delta variant outbreaks.

"As the uncertainty of control of the spread of the virus amongst our community continues, it is incumbent upon the interstate heavy vehicle sector to meet its responsibilities as it regularly moves throughout the community and not spread the virus.

"Current testing regimes for Covid-19 for all interstate heavy vehicle drivers vary from two-day, three-day and weekly testing cycles.

"The weekly cycles of testing can be met within the industry sector, however the less-than-a-week cycles are difficult to meet due to issues with fatigue management, testing locations and physical intrusion upon the individual.

"Having a pipette pushed to the back of the nasal cavity every few days wears the skin and creates blood noses on a regular basis.

"This is a health risk in itself."

In an earlier statement, QTA CEO Gary Mahon explained Brisbane-based Ellume Health’s home Covid-19 self-test kits are currently approved for use in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) but federal laws prevent such home Covid tests being sold in Australia. 

Read QTA and Mahon's take on the rapid-testing solution, here

These can be used by people with and without symptoms, giving a result in 15 minutes with a claimed 96% accuracy. 

To meet all obligations while still being able to remain unharmed, the combined state transport associations have endorsed the appeal to change the current testing regime to include the Ellume-type testing and provide the same level of Covid security.

"It is proposed that Interstate heavy vehicle drivers be tested every 2 or 3 days using the Ellume process and then have standard COVID test through a registered testing laboratory weekly.

"This would mean that the driver could carry out a self-test throughout the week, check their clearance of the virus and be sure that they are not infecting others.

"Accessible, reliable, and fast diagnostics are integral to the COVID-19 response.

"The Ellume rapid testing regime provides a result within 5-15 minutes to reduce an individual’s personal intrusion, manage outbreaks and community transmission, and reduce pressure on healthcare systems.

"The individual can then be able to be sure of their ability to meet the increase in testing and not have the physical discomfort and pain.

"We request that the Therapeutic Goods Administration grant an exemption for Ellume testing as has been done with HIV (2014) and Flu (2019) to include specifically the interstate heavy vehicle driver sector under specific conditions.

"It is important to note that we are not requesting that the Ellume process replace the process of testing through an accredited pathology laboratory but rather to minimise the risk and discomfort associated with meeting current requirements.

Freight drivers have maintained their social licence to continue working despite invasive testing requirements that have been a source of angst and distress for many, the letter concluded.

"They deserve a better testing regime that respects their physical and mental health and well-being, whilst keeping the community safe from transport-related outbreaks."


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