THANK YOU TO OUR NATIONAL SPONSOR
SA REVOKES VACCINATION REQUIREMENT
Last week, ALRTA reported that the South Australian Government had issued a new health order requiring all essential travellers to SA from restricted zones (currently all of NSW, VIC, ACT and parts of QLD and NT) to have had at least one vaccination from 12:01am, 24 September 2021.
We are pleased to report that the requirement has since been revoked.
However, given that both NSW and QLD have also recently introduced vaccine requirements applicable to the movement of some persons in particular LGAs or border zones, ALRTA remains extremely concerned about the prospect of mandatory vaccinations for interstate truck drivers.
This week, ALRTA has written to relevant Federal Ministers outlining our concerns and proposing workable alternatives. Our State Member Associations are of course supporting our campaign.
Photo: ALRTA National President, Scott McDonald.
Current Vaccination Rates
While ALRTA appreciates the efforts of certain governments to prioritise vaccination availability for freight workers over recent weeks, industry has been calling for this to occur since vaccines were first available. Afterall, it makes sense to prioritise cohorts in respect of which governments have recognised a need to impose risk-based movement restrictions. As it stands, there remains a significant proportion of truck drivers who are either unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated.
Our associations believe that more than 85 per cent of truck drivers will eventually volunteer for vaccination. However, many drivers living in regional areas have experienced long delays in availability. In some cases, vaccine bookings have been cancelled with expected vaccine consignments re-directed to priority outbreak zones. Others report difficulty in accessing truck-friendly vaccination locations or in fitting a vaccination into an already busy schedule (given the time required to travel to/from a vaccination site, undergo the vaccination/observation, and the possibility that even a mild adverse reaction might prevent professional driving for at least 24hrs).
There are also individual truck drivers who, for a range of reasons, will never be vaccinated. Some have medical conditions that preclude vaccination. Some will refuse particular vaccines. Some will simply exercise their right not to be vaccinated. This may represent 5-15 per cent of all truck drivers.
Truck Drivers Have Carried the Nation
Australian truck drivers have carried the nation through drought, fires, floods and the COVID-19 pandemic. Conditions have been challenging. Personal safety is often at risk. Basic amenities have been withdrawn. The increased regulatory burden of border permits, COVID Safe plans, COVID testing, delayed test results, PPE and isolation requirements have pushed many to breaking point.
Yet our truck drivers have kept on delivering – and considering the tens of thousands of interstate truck movements occurring every day, there have been comparatively few COVID events linked to truck drivers. Where these have occurred, regular testing has provided early detection while COVID safe plans have limited transmission and enabled rapid contract tracing.
It is widely known that there is an acute shortage of skilled truck drivers across Australia. ALRTA member operators report that a significant proportion of fleet vehicles remain ‘off the road’ at any one time because it is simply not possible to source qualified and appropriately skilled drivers.
Effect of Mandatory Vaccination
Any new requirement to mandate vaccinations for truck drivers to obtain a valid border permit would be a slap in the face to the road transport sector. It will also greatly exacerbate the driver shortage, significantly reducing Australia’s interstate road freight capacity at time when we should be doing everything possible to support a rapid economic recovery. Unvaccinated interstate owner drivers and small family fleets may lose their livelihoods altogether.
ALRTA expects that mandatory vaccinations for truck drivers will be discussed by National Cabinet imminently. We strongly recommend that mandatory vaccinations for truck drivers should be rejected in favour of improved vaccine rollout and appropriate incentives.
In this regard, our associations have recommended that:
- Truck drivers be prioritised for vaccination in all jurisdictions;
- Truck drivers be given free choice of vaccine type;
- Truck friendly vaccination clinics be provided at suitable locations (even if temporary);
- Vaccination validation be straightforward and nationally consistent; and
- Interstate border protocols be modified for vaccinated drivers commensurate with the expected level of risk reduction (e.g. Longer duration border permits [ideally a single national permit], a maximum frequency of 7 day rolling testing, alternative use of rapid antigen tests, reduced requirement for isolation when not working etc).
Australian truck drivers have done their bit to support Australia. Our associations now ask Ministers, Premiers and Chief Health Officers to support our truck drivers.
The most up to date information for the heavy vehicle industry relating to testing, vaccination and cross-border travel requirements, can be found by visiting the NHVR website.
LABOUR AND SKILLS SHORTAGES
LBRCA President, Paul Pulver, and ALRTA Executive Director, Mat Munro, have participated in a focus group meeting to examine urgent measures for addressing labour and skills shortages in rural Australia.
While the Department of Home Affairs has prioritised assessment of visa applications from persons seeking work in agriculture or regional areas, all current visas are linked to an official ANZCO skills list which effectively precludes truck drivers. However, in a welcome development, an August 2021 report delivered by the Joint Standing Committee on Migration includes recommendations to:
- Replace ANZCO with a more flexible skills list, in consultation with industry.
- Develop a persistent skills shortage list.
- Review lists regularly.
- Provide a pathways for permanent residency.
- Increase concessions for temporary regional visas.
- Streamline visa processing.
The Department of Home Affairs is also working on establishing a new type of agricultural visa that may expand the scope of workers who qualify, perhaps even including unskilled labour.
Unfortunately, establishing new visa types and reforming the ANZCO skills list is likely to take several months, if not years, and there remain many uncertainties about exactly what these processes will deliver.
As a more immediate measure, ALRTA is actively investigating the prospect of establishing a template labour agreement with the Department of Home Affairs. Labour agreements can provide a pathway for particular industries to access labour that does not otherwise qualify under the ANZCO skills list. If ALRTA is able to establish a template agreement, we are hopeful that it could be used by our member operators to source migrant truck drivers for up to five years. This should help address our immediate needs and allow sufficient time for other regulatory reform processes that will form part of a longer-term solution.
NEXT GENERATION ROUTE PLANNER
Representatives of ALRTA and our State Member Associations have attended a briefing session on the NHVR’s next generation Route Planner and Open Street Project.
Currently, there is a lack of road network data across jurisdictions, and where it does exist, it is generally out-of-date and incompatible with cross-jurisdictional integration. NHVR is developing a solution based on an open source street map that is accurate in real time (updated every 2min). Users will be able to view pre-approved routes and permits issued via the system can also be tracked and updated in the event of sudden route changes such as flooding events.
The system will eventually map sealed / unsealed road sections and include information that is currently not mapped such as infrequently used rural roads and ‘addresses’ of critical rural infrastructure such as farms and livestock yards/ramps.
The system appears promising and we look forward to ‘soft launch’ user testing expected in November 2021.
FRASER RECOGNISED AS INDUSTRY ICON
ALRTA congratulates Ross Fraser of Frasers Livestock Transport on being added to the list of Industry Icons during the 2021 Australian Festival of Transport (formerly known as the National Road Transport Hall of Fame Reunion). Apart from operating one of Australia’s most professional road transport businesses, Ross is a former ATA Chair, former ALRTA National President, a member of the Order of Australia and winner of numerous awards relating to safety and industry development.
Well done Ross!
2021 AUSTRALIAN INFRASTRUCTURE PLAN
Infrastructure Australia has published its landmark 2021 Australian Infrastructure Plan, calling for a new wave of infrastructure reform to fully leverage the Australian Government’s historic $110 billion infrastructure spend and drive the national COVID-19 recovery.
The 2021 Plan provides Australia’s infrastructure sector with a 15-year roadmap to drive economic growth, maintain and enhance our standard of living and improve the resilience and sustainability of our essential infrastructure.
Infrastructure Australia Chief Executive Romilly Madew said: “The 2021 Australian Infrastructure Plan is being delivered at a critical moment in our history. The pandemic, bushfires, drought, floods, and cyber-attacks have tested our collective resilience during recent years, while the most recent outbreaks have devastated our CBDs and put us at risk of a recession.
“The 2021 Plan outlines the reforms that will underscore future Australian economic growth. It is focused on identifying the actions required to deliver infrastructure for a stronger Australia and support our national recovery from the still-unfolding COVID-19 pandemic,” Ms Madew said.
“Building back better requires collective action from governments and industry, which combines both investment and reform. We have seen significant investment in the infrastructure sector since the start of the pandemic, but to drive the next phase of the national recovery, we need to pursue reforms that unlock the full benefits of stimulus spending.
“Infrastructure investment is at record levels across Australia, demonstrated by the Australian Government’s historic $110 billion infrastructure commitment. The 2021 Plan highlights the importance of leveraging this investment through targeted reform to deliver better infrastructure services for our communities,” Ms Madew said.
NATIONAL CONFERENCE GOES HYBRID
ALRTA advises that the 2021 LTAT/ALRTA Combined State and National Conference will now be held as a hybrid face-to-face/online event.
Our event was to be held face-to-face in Hobart, Tasmania, 22-23 October 2021. However, given the strong possibility of multiple state-wide COVID lockdowns persisting over coming months, we are unable to guarantee that interstate guests, speakers and sponsors could attend the event.
The hybrid event will take place over 4 hours on the morning of Saturday, 23 October 2021. Local content will be streamed from Hobart, while interstate guests are encouraged to participate online.
Our team is currently working on a new program, promotional material and registration process.
Please save the date and stay tuned for more information over coming weeks.
ATA APPOINTS CEO
The ATA has welcomed the appointment of new CEO Michael Deegan.
Mr Deegan has been involved in road freight transport policy for more than 20 years. His previous senior roles include Chair of the National Transport Commission, National Infrastructure Coordinator at Infrastructure Australia and CEO of the South Australian Department for Infrastructure and Transport.
ALRTA STAFF WORKING FROM HOME
The ACT lockdown has been extended until Friday 17 September 2021. ALRTA staff – Mathew, Sue, Colleen and Jack will continue working from home.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Colleen on the ALRTA mobile 0490 515 681 or Mathew (ED) on 0421 082 489.
SAVE THE DATES FOR 2021 & 2022
LTAT/National Combined Conference – Hobart & Online – 23 October 2021
LBRCA Conference – Wagga Wagga NSW – 10-12 February 2022 – Registration
LRTAQ Conference – Sunshine Coast – 4-5 March 2022