The Victorian Transport Association has joined a growing chorus of affiliate representative groups to petition the Commonwealth Government for a unified, national approach on COVID testing requirements for linehaul interstate heavy vehicle drivers.
Current testing regimes vary from two-day, three-day and weekly testing cycles.
It is proposed that interstate heavy vehicle drivers be tested every two or three days using the self-administered Ellume-type rapid testing process, alternating with a standard COVID test through a registered testing laboratory weekly.
In a statement put out earlier today, VTA CEO Peter Anderson acknowledged the weekly cycles of testing can be met within the industry sector however, the cycles of less than a week are difficult to meet due to issues with fatigue management, testing locations and physical intrusion upon the individual.
“Accessible, reliable, and fast diagnostics are integral to the COVID response,” said Anderson.
“The Ellume rapid testing regime provides a result within five to 15 minutes to reduce an individual’s personal intrusion, manage outbreaks and community transmission, and reduce pressure on healthcare systems.”
“Our request is that the Therapeutic Goods Administration grant an exemption for Ellume testing as has been done with HIV (2014) and Flu (2019) to include specifically the interstate heavy vehicle driver sector under specific conditions.
“Freight drivers have maintained their social licence to continue working despite invasive testing requirements that have been a source of angst and distress for many. They deserve a better testing regime that respects their physical and mental health and well-being, whilst keeping the community safe from transport-related outbreaks.”
Ever since the World Health Organisation announced a global pandemic 15 months ago, the freight industry has been often operating at close to full capacity.
Truck drivers have covered millions of kilometres to keep supply chains moving around Australia while maintaining an almost perfect record of zero COVID-19 transmission.
According to QTA CEO, Gary Mahon, the continuing intrusive lockdowns and mandatory testing requirements to cross borders, have been demanding and placed an extraordinary level of stress on supply chains, and particularly, truck drivers.
“In amongst all these ever-changing requirements, one thing that remains consistent, is the need to have essential goods and services delivered into communities via the road freight industry,” he said.
Federal and State Governments are relying exclusively on PCR testing for COVID-19 which has seen extensive queuing with wait times of between 40 to 160 hours on average for test results.
“There is every indication that the onerous mandatory testing requirements are going to continue for some significant time, likely for at least the next 12-18 months,” said Mahon.
“Authorities are unlikely to be able to sustain the reliance on PCR testing for the next eighteen months with mandatory testing being enforced.”
The prodigious amounts of amplification involved in attempting to pick up a strand of viral genetic code in the PCR tests more commonly relied on by biologists as a research tool used in laboratories have recently been called into question for their use in populations screening for diseases.
The United States Centre of Disease Control this week announced it would withdraw its request for emergency use authorisation for its COVID-19 PCR diagnostic test after December 2021.