Exemption for truck stops and roadhouses to stay open
WELCOME news overnight for truckies with the announcement from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) and the National Cabinet approving an exemption for roadhouses, dedicated truck stop facilities and truck driver lounges to remain open during the coronavirus crisis.
As many of you have told us in recent days on our Facebook page, due to recent COVID-19 restrictions that apply to roadside eateries, truck driver lounges and rest stops have closed, leaving truck drivers with nowhere to eat, rest and go to the bathroom.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said the trucking sector is playing a critical role in Australia's response to COVID-19.
"Our truck drivers are transporting everything from supermarket supplies and fuel to vital medical equipment and medicine to where it is needed across Australia," Mr McCormack said.
"We have heard their concerns loud and clear and this is a common sense solution which ensures heavy vehicle drivers have access to essential amenities, can take regular breaks and eat properly whilst delivering their vital cargo.
"Roadside service stations, roadhouses and truck driver lounges provide a vital function allowing truck drivers to eat, shower, use restrooms, refuel and rest comfortably before resuming their work - which is critical for them to continue efficient and safe freight distribution across the country."
"I thank the AHPPC and the National Cabinet for agreeing to these common-sense changes for the benefit of our truckies."
The exemptions will only apply to facilities where appropriate social distancing and hygiene measures can be maintained and the use of roadhouses will be strictly limited to heavy vehicle drivers.
Assistant Minister for Road Safety and Freight Transport Scott Buchholz said the safety of truck drivers at this difficult time is a key consideration of Government.
"I come from a freight industry background and I know first-hand how important these facilities are. I've been hearing direct from industry about the great work they are doing in this difficult time and the challenges they have been facing," he said.
"We want to make sure our truckies are safe, both in terms of fatigue management and their risk of exposure to COVID-19 and this exemption gets that balance right.
"With this exemption now in place, I do ask that facilities that can open per the social distancing and hygiene requirements of this new exemption do so.
"I want to thank the heavy vehicle sector and the peak industry bodies for working cooperatively with government and raising this from the grassroots level to the attention of the Commonwealth, the AHPPC and the National Cabinet."
The National Cabinet's decision that truck stops can stay open recognises that truck drivers are essential workers and deserve support, Australian Trucking Association Chair Geoff Crouch said.
"Australia's truck drivers are working hard to deliver the food, medicine and essential goods we need to get through this epidemic, but too many truck stops have closed their facilities, including toilets and showers," Mr Crouch said.
"Truck drivers are essential and deserve better. They need to be able to take a break on the road; they can't just wander out of their home office and grab something from the fridge.
"With our member associations, we have been working with government to get a result. And since last Friday, our social media on the issue has reached more than 265,000 people.
"I want to thank Michael McCormack and Scott Buchholz for responding to the industry's calls so rapidly, and the National Cabinet for recognising the importance of this issue.
"I also want to thank the ATA's member associations for their absolute unity and common effort.
"These are the times that being in an industry association is vitally important. If you're a trucking operator and not in an ATA member association, I urge you to join right now."
Mr Crouch said the ATA would now work to encourage truck stops to use the exemption, with appropriate social distancing and hygiene measures.
Big Rigs will be keeping a close watch on how these facilities respond to the decree in a new campaign we're running with the Australian Trucking Association that's launching this week.