Saturday, December 4

The trucking industry rejects the idea of ​​mandatory vaccines to cross regional borders

Trucking companies say a vaccine mandate at regional borders would be a problem because they are already struggling with a driver shortage and a fragile supply chain.

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New Zealand Transport Executive Director Nick Leggett says the industry couldn’t afford to take unvaccinated drivers off the road.
Photo: ivantsov / 123RF

The government is considering making vaccination a requirement to cross regional borders for all but some travel.

Transportation forum executive director Nick Leggett said the industry couldn’t afford to take unvaccinated drivers off the road.

“We have a shortage of drivers and a shortage of people in the cargo industry in general. We have problems with ships that can call at our ports,” he said.

“We are committed and I believe that a mandatory requirement for vaccines at the borders would cause a significant disruption and further slow down our economy at a time when we cannot afford it.”

Anyone leaving Auckland for essential reasons must return a negative Covid-19 test within seven days of crossing the border.

But the testing regimen failed to catch an unvaccinated person who later tested positive for the virus in Christchurch following a visit to Auckland, and there are now calls for the vaccine to be a requirement for anyone leaving the region.

Leggett said the drivers did not pose a great risk of transferring Covid-19 to other people.

The Executive Director of the Road Transport Forum, Nick Leggett

Nick Leggett.
Photo: RNZ / Tom Kitchin

“It is a lonely occupation for most of the time that drivers are sitting in their cabins often without interacting and when they do interact they can have decent personal protective equipment and keep their distance,” he said.

“We shouldn’t be running down a rabbit hole and potentially compromising our supply chain unless we really know what we are going to gain from a border vaccine mandate.”

A recent survey of 300 trucking operators showed that 28 percent would not have enough trucks to run their business if a vaccine mandate were introduced, Leggett said.

First Union Secretary Jared Abbott said unvaccinated drivers would likely lose their jobs, compounding the existing shortage.

“We have a real driver shortage in New Zealand and where we have seen these types of mandates implemented in addition to a driver shortage internationally, it has had impacts on the ability to carry cargo on which we obviously depend a lot.”

There were some doubts about vaccines in the sector, but the percentage of workers who were immunized is unknown, he said.

“I know there are several truck drivers who are not yet comfortable with vaccines, so I think there will be a pushback from those people, but I cannot speak for the companies that employ them.”

There was growing concern for those unable to work due to their vaccination status, Abbott said.

“It is easy to establish a rule to say that you cannot enter the house, but it is also the responsibility of the government to think about how people look outside the house.

“It is a concern for us that we are seeing in many industries that people are becoming quite polarized on these issues and they are basically losing their jobs, losing their rights to participate in society.”

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins has confirmed that a vaccine mandate is under discussion for interregional travel, including domestic flights.

On the roads there were practical considerations like keeping supply lines moving with minimal disruption, he said.

Chief Health Officer Dr. Ashley Bloomfield said people transporting goods are not to blame for spreading the disease in the current outbreak.

“It has been almost entirely in close contact settings, mainly at home, but also close contact within workplaces. So, actually, people in workplaces that are indoors are at risk. much greater than people who may have contact with drivers or other people who are doing their job. works. “

As for the Auckland border, Bloomfield said there had been a high level of compliance with the testing regime.

University of Otago public health professor Nick Wilson said arrangements for the internal border around Auckland and Waikato were “too lax.”

The requirement for a negative PCR test within seven days of crossing the border was “too lax,” he said. Morning report.

“It should be a requirement to be fully vaccinated and even have a rapid antigen test at the border crossing. This would help us avoid outbreaks in the rest of the country and give us more time to reach higher levels of vaccination. It’s really pretty obvious. “

“We are seeing problems with this border every few days and fortunately some of the problems have been resolved – the cases in Wellington, Palmerston North and Blenheim, elimination has been achieved – but we can fail with this current Christchurch situation.”

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