Freight Rail, Safety, Standards & Regulation, Workforce, Certification & Training

Prioritise freight worker vaccinations, says Scurrah

The vaccination of essential freight workers should be accelerated says Pacific National chief executive Paul Scurrah.

GOVERNMENTS must prioritise COVID-19 vaccinations for essential freight workers, Pacific National chief executive Paul Scurrah says.

To better protect the national supply chain from the highly infectious Delta variant, Scurrah said it was critical to vaccinate essential freight workers, many of whom live in regional Australia where vaccine supplies are limited.

“As the nation’s largest private rail freight company, Pacific National hauls hundreds of thousands of tonnes of goods and commodities each week across our continent,” he said.

“Our frontline rail freight workers, about 2300, have played a critical role in helping keep Australia’s economy moving during the pandemic.

“Each day, hundreds of our train crews cross state borders and at times enter lockdown or ‘hotspot’ LGA zones to help deliver goods and commodities to ports, supermarket distribution centres, mines, and grain receival sites.”

Scurrah noted working from home was not an option for those operating giant freight trains.

“State governments have moved to tighter COVID-19 testing regimes (either three or seven days) for essential freight workers, meaning they obviously view freight workers to be in a higher risk category,” Scurrah said.

“Therefore, it stands to reason that such workers should be provided with a priority jab.”

Scurrah said the Delta variant had “shone a bright light” on the missing pieces in our country’s fight against COVID, including the need to further shield and strengthen our national supply chain against the risk of any future variant outbreaks.

“On many key freight corridors, all it would take is for a dozen or so train drivers to contract the virus, or indeed just to be deemed close contacts, or for a COVID outbreak to occur at a major intermodal terminal or depot, for the national supply chain to be severely disrupted,” he said.

“It’s called the national supply chain for a reason – it is only as strong as its weakest link.”

Paul Scurrah’s comments reflect similar views to the Australian Logistics Council, which also called for COVID-19 testing sites for freight workers.