Good news for freight movement

If we are looking on the bright side, one of the things that has come out of the Covid-19 lockdown is a greater understanding from Government of the importance of trucks, and the intricacies of freight logistics.

When issuing lockdown rules, with the appropriately singular view at the time of saving people’s lives, the Government tried to separate freight into essential and non-essential, with only essential freight allowed to be moved. The aim was to reduce the number of people in New Zealand leaving their homes for work, to eliminate the opportunities for the virus to take hold of the population, as we have watched with horror happening in other countries.

But an unintended consequence was this in fact, clogged the freight chain – it’s a system that needs to keep goods moving to work at its optimum.

The RTF has spent the past three weeks working through this with government officials and in a meeting with the Transport Minister Phil Twyford. And you will have seen me talking about it across media.

So, when news came last night that the Government has made some adjustments to enable all freight to move, it was a happy moment in otherwise not very happy times.

A refinement of the rules means that non-essential freight, which previously could not be moved unless it was in the way of essential freight, can now be moved to its end destination.

Customers can receive this freight, but they can’t be open to operate their businesses under Alert Level 4 and all the rules for working under level 4 are in place still.

This means that freight companies can get on with their business and free flowing freight will help exporters and importers, as well as those who are part of the domestic supply chain.

Also announced yesterday were the parameters of life under Alert Level 3. We have collectively got our fingers crossed that on Monday (20 April), Cabinet will have confidence New Zealand is in the right place health-wise to allow this to happen soon, possibly next week.

While it feels like freedom, there will still be a lot of restrictions in place. To ensure the Government has confidence our industry is working safely and has the traceability required – the Ministry of Health will need to be able to contact all people who have had contact with someone who contracts Covid-19 – the RTF has drawn up a set of protocols for road freight transport.

These protocols are under consultation and will be released to the industry when we are clear what the parameters of Alert Level 3 are, and we have a date of a level-change.

They are guidance, as our industry is already covered by a lot of legislation to ensure health and safety and there is no need to reinvent the wheel.

It is absolutely imperative that industry keeps workers safe so that business can continue and we don’t have to go back into lockdown. No one wants that. There will be a trust element. So just reflect on what one month of lockdown has been like for your business before looking for ways to break the rules.

Details of the freight movement adjustment are on the Ministry of Transport website here and updated guidance is here.

– Nick Leggett, CEO, Road Transport Forum

 


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