Truck drivers crossing the border from Victoria into New South Wales are suffering from some coronavirus crackdown confusion (UPDATED) according to the Transport Workers’ Union. The union 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 confusion lies with the permits being issued with the wording, ‘you will be required to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival in NSW’ included in the short wording of the permit. Truck drivers and trucks were said to have been included in the critical services category and exempted from the normal quarantine requirements when crossing state borders which have been closed.
The Livestock, Bulk and Rural Carriers Association of NSW has released this statement after getting clarification from the NSW authorities:
An early statement from Susie Mackay, Executive Director Freight Customer Strategy, and Technology at Transport for NSW confirmed that initial creases in self-isolation rules for the heavy vehicle freight industry have been ironed out, providing certainty for the freight industry through the temporary NSW/VIC border closure.
The statement advises that after reviewing the criteria for critical services permits yesterday, NSW will be creating an additional permit, to better support critical workers in the Freight and Transport sector and to clarify terms and conditions.
This permit will allow people within the freight and transport industry to be able to travel between NSW and Victoria for the purpose of their duties, providing their employer has a COVID-19 Safety Plan and will not require them to self-isolate.
The NSW Government has commenced the development of the new permit, which will be live through Service NSW by close of business today, Thursday July 9. COVID-Safe plans and guidelines to assist the industry are also available to align with this additional permit here.
In the meantime, Freight and Transport workers will still require the current critical services permit to enter NSW, but will not be held to account for any form of self-isolation. We are working to ensure the smooth facilitation of this change over the next 24 hours.
Consistent with the need to prepare a COVID-19 Safety Plan, Transport for NSW is asking freight operators to be conscious of the significantly increased health risk in Victoria, to please take extra care and ensure that you are vigilant in practising physical distancing, minimising contact and maintaining good hygiene practices to limit the spread of the Coronavirus. Any employees displaying symptoms of COVID-19 should not be required to come to work.
While all efforts are being made to ensure freight moves as efficiently as possible, operators are encouraged to plan ahead as some delays may be experienced and to factor this into fatigue management plans.
This is a great result. LBRCA thanks the NSW government for their common sense approach to ensure the freight industry keeps Australia moving.
“Truck drivers are providing an essential critical service during this pandemic,” said John Berger, TWU Victoria Tasmania Branch Secretary. “They are delivering food, fuel and medicines. They are keeping the economy and businesses open by distributing goods across Australia.
“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.”
“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.”
Adding to this coronavirus crackdown confusion, many drivers will have arrived at the border without being able to apply for a permit in advance as this is the message (image below), which would have greeted them on the NSW government website on Tuesday, before the borders were closed, but after the closure was announced.
It is unclear at this time as to whether the isolation stipulation is simply an oversight by bureaucrats in creating the permits or a lack of knowledge among those issuing the permits.
Nevertheless, the ambiguous language used in the permits leaves drivers in the awkward situation of not quite knowing what to do. Do they continue on with their journey assuming this is a bureaucratic error or do they park up and wait for clarification, disrupting the vital supply chains across the long Victoria NSW border?