During the unprecedented time of COVID-19 there are many unanswered questions. To help you and your business come out the other side of this worldwide pandemic we’ve recruited Gillian Bristow, Legal Practitioner Director of Bristow Legal, to provide you with useful information.
With supply shortages occurring nationwide, it’s more important than ever that the vital role of road transport is recognised and supported by government and regulators. Some important exemptions to COVID-19 restrictions are already being implemented.
Transport and Border Restrictions
To prevent the spread of COVID-19, Australia has closed its borders internationally and many states have restricted access through their domestic borders and within their states by implementing mandatory self-isolation and limiting travel.
So far, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory have all implemented border closures with Queensland and Western Australia moving to ‘hard borders’. In South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory, anyone entering the state without ‘essential traveller’ or ‘exempted person’ status will need to self-isolate for 14 days. Queensland and Western Australia will, subject to certain exceptions, only permit essential travellers to enter. All travellers, whether exempt or not, must also observe social distancing and practise strict hygiene.
Each state and territory has allowed exemptions for the transport and logistics industry to ensure essential goods continue to arrive where they are needed across Australia.
This is a rapidly changing situation and it is important that you continue to check on the current situation on at least a daily basis. As of April 3, the following rules and processes regarding exemptions apply:
Exempt persons include those providing transport or freight of goods, or logistics for the goods ‘into, within and out of Queensland’. This exemption is subject to certain conditions including a condition that the person must practise social distancing wherever possible, including maintaining a distance of at least 1.5 metres where reasonably practicable and remain self-quarantined in their vehicle or accommodation.
Essential travellers are exempt from the border closure. ‘Essential travellers’ include those who provide transport or freight services into, within and out of South Australia and are required to physically be in South Australia to do so.
An exemption applies to ‘any person who in the course of their duties is responsible for provision of transport or freight and logistics services into and out of Western Australia provided that the person remains in Western Australia for only so long as is reasonably required to perform his or her duties’. There are also certain intrastate travel restrictions that similarly do not apply if you are travelling across regional borders to transport freight.
The exemptions for the ‘hard border’ closure are yet to be finalised.
All entrants to Tasmania must complete an arrivals form, available here. ‘Any person who in the carriage of his or her duties is responsible for provision of transport or freight and logistics into, within and out of Tasmania’ falls within the definition of an ‘essential traveller’. Transport, freight and logistics workers can apply to be granted essential traveller status through an application form (in advance of arrival), available here.
Essential travellers must undertake the following measures: sleep in a single room, monitor yourself for relevant symptoms and seek medical assistance where they develop, apply social distancing measures and practice strict hygiene. More information can be found here.
Entrants must fill out an arrival form, available here. Anyone providing transport, freight or logistics services is exempt from the self-isolation requirements that would otherwise apply.
New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT have not yet implemented border restrictions.
The Federal government has passed a Determination (available here) that prevents travel to certain designated remote areas of Australia. Under this Determination, a person providing an essential service may enter the area, as long as they have the appropriate permission/permit issued by the responsible authority.
Under the Determination ‘transporting freight to or from a place in the area’ is an ‘essential activity’. However, you will still need to obtain any necessary permits from the relevant authority.
Road House Exemptions
Welcome relief has also come for truck drivers as the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee and the National Cabinet announced exemptions for dedicated truck stop facilities and driver lounges from forced closures. This decision can be found here.
This exemption is for roadhouse and rest stop facilities that provide meal and hygiene facilities for the trucking industry.
Drivers must still observe the following conditions:
- washing their hands at appropriate times, especially before sitting and prior to leaving;
- maintaining appropriate social distancing while in the lounge;
- refraining from remaining in the lounge/facilities for more than one hour, including showering and using toilet facilities;
- advising a lounge employee after showering to allow time for cleaning;
- following all COVID-19 related instructions from employees in the lounge;
- if displaying symptoms of illness, not entering the lounge and seeking medical assistance.
Relaxing National Heavy Vehicle Regulations
Following the outbreak, the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) released a coronavirus response making changes to the existing regulatory schemes. The details are set out here.
Temporary changes have been introduced to the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme (NHVAS) medical and audit requirements. These changes are:
- Heavy vehicle drivers operating under Advanced Fatigue Management (AFM) or Basic Fatigue Management (BFM) accreditations may continue to drive with an expired driver medical, until they can practicably obtain one.
- Auditors can undertake all document and records validation and audits remotely, requesting electronic copies be emailed to them, or sent by another suitable method, and can conduct conversations by phone.
The NHVR has also agreed to waive restrictions on all curfew permits, except those related to safety and access, to move general freight and grocery deliveries.
Finally, the NHVR has extended the time limit drivers may use a supplementary work diary record to 30 days in case there is a reduction in the number of existing outlets in any state where a new diary can be purchased. If you are using a supplementary record, you must contact the NHVR within two days of your work diary being completed, lost, stolen or destroyed.
Gillian has provided advice to the road transport industry for more than 25 years. She regularly presents to industry conferences and seminars, and writes a column for the magazine ‘Power Torque’. Gillian has previously worked with NTI to provide guidance material on chain of responsibility obligations and with the Australian Trucking Association to prepare a checklist for reviewing transport contracts.
Prepared 3 April 2020. Please note that this publication is for information only and is not legal advice. You should consider obtaining advice that is specific to your circumstances and should not rely upon this publication as legal advice.