As the number of truck drivers testing positive for COVID-19 steadily increases, some states are looking to implement mandatory vaccination laws.
What is happening in South Australia?
Since 27th August, it’s been reported that six truck drivers testing positive for COVID-19 have entered South Australia, and SA Health has now listed as many as 20 exposure sites on their website.
The most recent of these cases was logged on 7th September at an Adelaide service station. The BP petrol station at Wingfield was marked as the latest exposure site after an infectious truck driver carrying timber stopped off at a BP petrol station at Wingfield. At present, around 1000 close contacts of the six infected drivers are completing 14 days of quarantine, with 90% of those returning negative COVID-19 test results.
This latest incident sparked conversations between SA and the freight industry about making COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for all interstate truck drivers.
Should these plans go ahead, there are proposed plans in place to open pop-up vaccination clinics at the most common truckie stop-off points to make it more straightforward for drivers to access vaccinations.
Chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier said, “what we want to do is make sure that if we have a requirement that it is very easy for freight drivers to get vaccinated, so we are working through the nuts and bolts of that at the moment to make sure that testing is very easy, but also vaccinations are very easy.”
What is happening in Victoria?
Meanwhile, in Victoria, reported cases of COVID are also on the rise. On Thursday, Health Minister Martin Foley announced mandatory vaccinations for any freight and healthcare workers entering Victoria after being in high-risk COVID-19 areas.
“Due to the risk that continues to be posed by the movement of the virus across NSW, and what that poses to a number of states including Victoria, we are further tightening the border requirement restrictions as they apply to specified worker groups for multiple entry permits,” Mr. Foley said.
These measures will be implemented from 23rd September when affected truck drivers and healthcare workers entering the state must have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. When crossing into Victoria, workers will be expected to show documentation of this, ideally via a COVID-19 digital certificate.
How are truck drivers responding to these new requirements?
Amid a pre-existing truck driver shortage, it’s expected that these new requirements will cause some upset among drivers, which could lead to major supply chain disruptions.
Some drivers will likely resist or refuse the measures altogether, while strike action or a sudden spike in resignations are also anticipated.
At the end of last month, for example, truck drivers formed a blockade near the Queensland border as part of a strike action protesting the NSW government’s vaccination deadline for hotspot workers. The protesters blocked the M1 southbound at Reedy Creek, on the Gold Coast and called for the new rules on mandatory vaccinations to be scrapped.
The Australian Trucking Association has also raised concerns that the two-week window for drivers in Victoria to get their first shot is far too narrow, which could contribute to additional freight hold-ups.