Rochester truck drivers demand answers to COVID-19 testing requirements

By Alex Gretgrix

CHANGES to COVID-19 testing rules for Victorian truck drivers could cripple the transport industry, according to Rochester and district companies.

South Australia requires drivers to get tested every seven days if they are crossing state borders.

While it is not mandatory in NSW, testing is being strongly encouraged.

However, in Rochester and around Victoria, testing isn’t available for those without symptoms.

And if it was, drivers would have to isolate while waiting for results.

“Nobody has actually defined what needs to happen if our drivers are going to cross the border, and it is really confusing,” Peacock's Transport manager Beck Wolfe said.

“At the moment, there are more questions than answers.

“It would almost be impossible for our drivers to do their jobs if they can't be tested.

“Something needs to be done to help out everyone in the industry.”

Beck said border closures across the country were made even more confusing when two of Peacock's drivers travelled to Western Australia last week.

“One had to be tested and the other didn't,” she said.

“It doesn't make a lot of sense when they were both coming from Victoria. We were told the details they filled out on their border exemption form told them whether or not they had to be tested.”

Sam O'Sullivan of O'Sullivans Transport, based at Elmore, said he expected the decision to have a profound impact across Australia.

“The decision from the state government was certainly a surprise,” he said.

“We wouldn't have been impacted too badly yet, but I'm sure it will put a strain on us in the coming weeks.

“Hopefully something can be done to clear up the situation.”

Australian Trucking Association chair David Smith said urgent action was required.

“The ATA is particularly concerned about the number of truck drivers and other travellers who need to be tested at the Victoria-South Australia border,” he said.

“The queues at the South Australian border are up to 4km long, partly because Victorian clinics are turning away people who do not have symptoms and just need a test for compliance purposes.

“In discussion with the Premier of South Australia and the incoming Minister for Transport, Corey Wingard, the South Australian Road Transport Association has put forward a plan for putting out this fire on the border by moving to random testing. I urge the SA Government to take it up.

“The trucking industry has an exemplary record on COVID compliance. Truck drivers are isolated in their rigs the vast bulk of the time and practice COVID-safe measures when they are outside.

“I also urge the Victorian Government to clarify its requirement that people who have COVID tests must go into quarantine until the results are known.

“This is appropriate for people who have tests because they have COVID symptoms. It is not appropriate for drivers who are required to have regularly weekly screening tests.”

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