The freight industries in Western Australia and South Australia have each joined together to provide an efficient source of information for freight operators during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.
In WA, the Freight and Logistics Council of WA (FLCWA), along has formed the WA Supply Chain Covid Response Group. The group brings together the FLCWA, Northern Territory Road Transport Association, and Western Roads Federation to ensure the safety of workers and the continuing supply of essential goods.
Leading the group will be Nicole Lockwood, chair of FLCWA, and the combined group will provide a single source of information to the WA and Northern Territory governments and agencies on behalf of the freight and logistics industries.
“We’re here to help any freight company who requires assistance in dealing with operational impacts due to Covid-19 and encourage them to get in contact with us,” said Lockwood.
Since its formation two weeks ago, the response group has been providing advice on the impact of border closures and supported the delivery of products such as hand sanitiser to the freight industry.
“Our key priority is the safety of all workforce involved to maintain the movement of food, medical supplies and general freight. I’d like to acknowledge the dedication from the front-line truck drivers, train drivers and Port workers in ensuring essential goods are kept flowing into Western Australia,” said Lockwood.
WA network operator Arc Infrastructure has been planning for the COVID-19 pandemic since February to ensure that operations continue. Those who can work from home are doing so, and while regional depots and head office remain open, face-to-face meetings are limited unless business critical.
Arc Infrastructure has also implemented new control centres in the metro area, increasing the number of available train controllers, decentralising work locations, and making sure that expertise and qualifications are evenly spread across the network.
In South Australia, Minister for Trade and Investment, David Ridgway, has formed the Export Recovery Taskforce to support South Australian freight businesses overcome the economic effects of COVID-19.
“South Australia has an immense task ahead of us, and the impacts of COVID-19 are being felt across all export sectors. We recognise the enormous economic and logistical issues challenging our industries, businesses and individuals right now as a result of the necessary restrictions on travel,” said Ridgway.
While international air freight has been restricted, ports and ship-borne freight remain operating. According to Evan Knapp, executive officer of the SA Freight Council, while the initial focus is on shipments via air, future discussions could incorporate impacts to goods shipped by rail, for example grain.
“Rail is still moving relatively well at this stage. Grain has been affected by the massive change in value of our currency which will have short term impacts, but in the longer term the currency depreciation will make Australian goods much more attractive in markets around the world.”
Knapp added that the SA Freight Council and others have reiterated to governments that rail workers and rail safety workers are essential workers and must be permitted to cross state borders to make urgent repairs to rail networks, when required.