Grinding halt for trucks

MEMBER for Murray Plains Peter Walsh says mandatory COVID-19 testing for truck drivers in South Australia could cripple the local trucking industry.

Yesterday, the New South Wales Government announced that road and rail freight and transport operators who have entered Victoria in the past 14 days should get COVID-19 tested every seven days.

Different states across the country have implemented different border control rules.

Shadow Minister for Ports and Freight Roma Britnell said confusion was rife at Victoria's borders with NSW and SA with no clear advice on how drivers are to be tested or which rules they need to follow to isolate following tests.

"This is causing the freight industry to grind to a halt, with trucks being turned away at the border," Ms Britnell said.

"Supermarket shelves risk being emptied, with essential items being stuck at an arbitrary line on a map."

At present, freight and transport operators require a current border entry permit issued by Service NSW to enter NSW from Victoria.

In Victoria, people with symptoms are encouraged to get tested.

Mr Walsh said truck companies have passed the point of last warning, with the SA border controls making it clear the state refused entry to any driver without a current COVID-19 test result.

"The potential impact of this on many local trucking operations, big and small, is obvious; it could be crippling," Mr Walsh said.

"In the avalanche of changes governments are making to try and get ahead of the virus there will be hiccups such as this, but this is one that must be urgently corrected before industry starts grinding to a halt."

Mr Walsh said following last night's announcement, his office has received calls from concerned drivers and companies.

"But, with no symptoms, drivers can't get tests done — by order of the Victorian Department of Health," Mr Walsh said.

"And with no tests and no permits they can't go into SA — by order of the SA Government.

"Which is why local businesses fear, rightly, the impact this will have on them across the board — from customer orders to staffing.

"In these times, the last thing any business or any community needs, is red tape adding to the challenges of remaining viable."

Transport for NSW said workers moving freight into NSW on a commercial basis would not be required to self-isolate, but must follow a COVID-19 Safety Plan at all times.

The department said the weekly testing requirement followed the National Cabinet's agreement to the Protocol for Domestic Border Controls – Freight Movements.

Workers performing other critical services are required to self-isolate for 14 days after crossing the border, except when providing the critical service.

The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) board was in crisis talks with deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack yesterday, following the collapse of an interstate agreement to speed up the flow of freight.

ATA chair David Smith said the states' COVID-19 testing requirements were a national crisis that would shut down the national trucking industry if not fixed by the end of the week.

"We do not know if NSW requires truck drivers to be screened or if they just encourage it," Mr Smith said.

"In Victoria, truck drivers are being told they must self-isolate after a screening test, even though they do not have symptoms."

Mr Smith recommended for drivers to be screened and that Mr McCormack establish pop-up screening facilities along major freight routes.