Freight providers are warning that mandatory COVID-19 tests for truck drivers entering NSW or South Australia from Victoria will fuel a second wave of supermarket panic buying, with the new rules threatening the transport of the 650,000 tonnes of essential supplies that cross the borders each day.

Confusion on Australia’s main road transport routes has erupted again after NSW and South Australia pre-empted a national framework agreement, which was expected to be reached next week to ensure that transport of essential supplies could continue.

Rather than wait for the nat­ional response, the NSW and South Australian governments created their own rules, which require truck drivers to be tested within seven days before they cross their borders with Victoria.

It comes as Victoria recorded more than 700 new COVID-19 infections on Thursday — 200 more than its previous record.

Truck drivers are finding complying with NSW and SA’s new rules difficult, given Victorian health authorities will not test anybody not showing symptoms.

SA moved first, with the new rule causing delays of up to 90 minutes at Mount Gambier on Wednesday night as authorities checked every truck crossing the Victorian border. Lengthy delays were also reported at Bordertown.

Victorian Transport Association chief executive Peter Anderson said some truck drivers turned around and drove back to Victoria. He said the new testing regime would delay the transport of essential supplies across Australia, fuelling a second wave of panic buying.

“I don’t see this so much as ­political grandstanding as poor decision-making based on lack of knowledge. They don’t understand how our supply chains work. They don’t understand how the interconnection of different systems rely on each other and the importance they have on society,” Mr Anderson said.

“This will mean people won’t get food. This will mean buildings won’t get built. There will be gaps on shelves and people will go into a panic because they’ll say – there is no rice, no flour, what am I going to do?”

The Transport Industry Council (TIC) met last week to form a national framework to ensure road freight could continue un­interrupted during the pandemic.

The TIC was expected to reconvene next Friday after holding discussions with the industry this week.

“NSW has pre-empted that, SA has pre-empted that, and they have all gone about it their own way. The federal government was doing a good job but now we are back to the states doing all their own things, and they’re not cohesive and don’t work,” Mr Anderson said. “When we talk about a national supply chain network, it has to be that — not a state-based network.”

The requirement from NSW and SA that Victoria complete the testing on truck drivers appears unenforceable. Victorian health authorities will not test anyone not showing symptoms, meaning truck drivers struggle to comply with NSW and SA regulations.

Mr Anderson said a more practical approach would be for NSW and SA authorities to complete random tests on their own land, at their own borders.

The Transport Workers Union called on the NSW and SA governments to clarify their COVID-19 plan for essential transport workers navigating the ever-changing border rules.

Extracted in full from: https://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/economics/truckie-covid19-tests-fuel-supermarket-panic-buying-fears/news-story/64c8b445b074f38301e5812b0350b74f

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