NZ Truck & Driver News

 
Finding possible positives

Finding possible positives

NZ Truck & Driver News

 May 2020   
The Government's anti-trucking stance may have been softened by the road transport industry's vital role in keeping the country fed and functioning during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.

Even in the midst of a grim time, with many transport operators worried about the impact of the nationwide shutdown on their businesses, Road Transport Forum chief executive Nick Leggett saw one positive.

"If we're 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."

Evidence of it came in the form of a change of mind by the Government on its lockdown ruling that only essential freight could be moved by transport operators.

Leggett explained that the lockdown rules – created "with the appropriately singular view at the time of saving people's lives," saw the Government trying to separate freight into essential and non-essential…. 

"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 had happened in other countries.

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The Government's anti-trucking stance may have been softened by the road transport industry's vital role in keeping the country fed and functioning during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.
Even in the midst of a grim time, with many transport operators worried about the impact of the nationwide shutdown on their businesses, Road Transport Forum chief executive Nick Leggett saw one positive.
"If we're 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."
Evidence of it came in the form of a change of mind by the Government on its lockdown ruling that only essential freight could be moved by transport operators.
Leggett explained that the lockdown rules – created "with the appropriately singular view at the time of saving people's lives," saw the Government trying to separate freight into essential and non-essential…. 
"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 had happened in other countries.
But, said Leggett, "an unintended consequence was that this in fact clogged the freight chain: It's a system that needs to keep goods moving to work at its optimum."
For the first three weeks after the lockdown, the Forum tried to get that  point across to Government officials and Transport Minister Phil Twyford. 
As Leggett pointed out publicly at the end of the first week of lockdown, the essential/non-essential classification showed "a lack of understanding of what is an integrated global system.
"You take one link out, and the whole chain starts grinding to a halt. As an importing and exporting nation, goods have to be able to come in and go out.
"But at the moment, goods deemed 'non-essential,' such as logs and processed wood products, are not allowed to go out. That means other countries that don't have these restrictions are taking our market share – and we may never get it back. 
"The longer this goes on, the more people in the NZ provinces where forestry is a key employer will be out of work and the more businesses will fold.
"We can't export without importing. We must be able to move goods. Workers are already working in the 'new normal' conditions of social distancing and strict hygiene, so this is do-able under Alert Level 4.
"We know that it is vital that items deemed essential move quickly through the supply chain, and priority should be given to them. However, for the supply chain to actually function now, and during our nation's economic recovery, the classification to control its movement should be scrapped."
Thus, when (on April 16) the Government "made some adjustments to enable all freight to move, it was a happy moment in otherwise not very happy times.
"This is good news for the road freight transport industry and we thank the Government for making this adjustment. 
"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."  


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