Truck drivers play a critical role in COVID-19 response: Bailey

Service stations with dedicated truck rest stops have been granted a special exemption to stay open to support drivers carrying essential freight.

Transport and Main Roads Minister, Mark Bailey, said truck drivers were playing a critical role in the nationwide response to contain COVID-19.

“Communities across Australia are relying on their local supermarkets to remain well stocked,” said Bailey.

“They need essential food and medical supplies to get to where it is needed most.

“We need well-fed and well-rested truck drivers to ensure that happens,” he said.

Bailey said an unintended consequence of the national direction to restrict the operation of restaurants and cafes to reduce the spread of COVID-19 had forced the closure of popular rest stops used by the heavy vehicle industry.

“Closing these facilities during a time of national crisis where our nation needs truck drivers and transport companies more than ever was clearly unacceptable,” said Bailey.

“Long haul truck drivers need to manage fatigue with regular and good quality breaks.

“They rely on these facilities to eat, shower, use restrooms, refuel and rest comfortably before resuming their work.

“Tired and hungry truck drivers travelling long distances are obviously a road safety issue too, so we need to make sure they are supported as much as possible right now.

“Queensland fought for this exemption during discussion in the National Cabinet, and I’m pleased common sense has prevailed,” he said.

Bailey said while the exemptions were principally to support truck drivers, facilities in Queensland would also be available to those who had to travel for essential reasons, including local work crews.

Queensland Trucking Association CEO, Gary Mahon, said it was vitally important that truck drivers on the front line delivering essential goods and supplies could continue to access food and amenities around the country.

“We were pleased to see the collaborative advocacy that occurred around the country to achieve this for the road freight industry,” said Mahon. “The road freight industry is utterly dependable and reliable, and I would like to recognise the wonderful job all professional truck drivers are doing to keep up with the increased demand for supplies and services.”

Under the national changes, truck drivers and service station staff must continue to follow social distancing and appropriate hygiene requirements.

All self-serve options must also be removed, unless the food is pre-packaged.

The Australasian Convenience and Petroleum Marketers Association CEO, Mark McKenzie, welcomed the clarification on rules for truck rest facilities.

“Our industry operates roadhouses and truck stops that are effectively the workplace lunchrooms of the heavy vehicle industry,” said McKenzie.

“I welcome the clarification in Queensland, and also thank the TWU for their support on this issue.

“This announcement means we can continue to support the freight industry while observing necessary social distancing requirements,” he said.

The Chief Health Officer has issued an updated Non-essential business, activity and undertaking Closure Direction (No.5) containing the exemption for truck rest stop facilities.

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