ALC CEO Kirk Coningham highlights how a united freight industry has achieved a common-sense protocol for border safety.
The COVID-19 pandemic has required all of us to deal with scenarios and situations that were hard or even impossible to anticipate.
Of course, the freight and logistics industry has long-held concerns about some of the complexities that arise from having to comply with multiple regulatory regimes as freight crosses the border from one state or territory into another. Yet the closure of those same borders at the onset of the pandemic has forced the industry to confront and adapt to a whole new set of requirements.
The fast-moving nature of the COVID-19 challenge has also required governments and regulatory authorities to move speedily – and in some instances, this has led to the imposition of rules that are simply incompatible with the realities of freight transport.
Over the past several months, ALC has worked with its members, regulatory authorities and allied industry groups to build support among governments for a nationally consistent approach that will protect the health of the freight transport sector’s workforce and the wider community, while still ensuring that our industry can get the job done.
Those efforts bore fruit in late July when the National Cabinet gave its endorsement to a Domestic Border Control Freight Movement Protocol.
The protocol has been endorsed by chief health officers from all state and territories and clearly outlines measures that all states and territories agree will allow freight to move safely and efficiently across borders.
This includes a number of common- sense measures which ALC has pursued throughout the pandemic. These include the ‘waive through’ of freight vehicles at borders, standardising the duration of border crossing permits, mutual recognition of COVIDsafe work plans developed in other jurisdictions, and not requiring rail crews to quarantine or self- isolate when crossing borders if they have not developed COVID-19 symptoms.
Obtaining agreement to this protocol has only been possible because our industry has been able to clearly and convincingly demonstrate its commitment to COVIDsafe practices to governments nation-wide.
In particular, the members of our Safety Committee provided crucial support by offering compelling examples of the extensive efforts being undertaken by freight and logistics companies to make their operations COVIDsafe. This gave policymakers added confidence that our industry takes its obligations seriously
and understands the importance of COVIDsafe behaviour in protecting the wider community. The importance of having COVID testing available for freight workers frequently crossing borders is also recognised, and the protocol calls for states and territories to offer ‘pop-up’ testing facilities in appropriate locations.
Importantly, the protocol also requires authorities to consult with industry to understand the effect and impacts of potential changes ahead of any new directions being been put place.
It will be vital for governments to follow this requirement if we are to avoid some of the confusion that has been witnessed throughout the pandemic, especially in instances where border requirements were changed with inadequate notice to industry.