It will come as a huge surprise that everything in your house, on your street, in your supermarket, in fact absolutely everything has spent some time in the back of a truck! Spoiler alert – it’s usually been in the back of more than one truck…
That potato you’re eating may have come from the Atherton tableland in North Queensland. The carrot – from down around Warrnambool in Western Victoria. The onion – from over near Murray Bridge in South Australia. It’s all gone in the back of a truck from the paddock to the warehouse, to be packed in boxes or bags, and then usually to the fruit and veg market in your capital city. From there, to the supermarket distribution centre and then into yet another truck to the supermarket until – finally – onto the shelves.
Without trucks, Australia stops. That’s not a joke or a slogan – it’s a fact. Think about it, even our local servo gets a fuel delivery every other day.
Why point this out? Well, because it’s so obvious it’s often forgotten. You go to the supermarket and buy your groceries and it’s not until what you want isn’t there you even think about it. That’s not a problem, that’s okay… Our society is geared around us all doing whatever we do in our space. We crank the handle that winds our wheel in the great machine and life goes on.
The wheels of the transport industry are falling off. It’s been happening for a while now and we may well be in for some serious pain before it gets better.
I don’t want to get into the ‘right’ or the ‘wrong’ of the whole Covid debate. Those who follow my social media are well aware of my personal position on the matter. I will say this: in the two years we’ve been enduring the governmental reaction to the issue, I’ve worked all over Australia. In that time, I personally know only one person who contracted Covid. He is double vaxxed. I know many who have had more than 80 PCR tests. That’s not to say Covid is not out there. More on that in a moment.
I’ve been subjected to horribly unfair treatment trying to do my job. I’ve been denied access to food, toilets, showers, and all the amenities taken for granted by our society. I’ve been pushed, poked, and prodded – made to wait for excessive time in queues at borders and tried to do it all within the legal framework rigidly enforced on the roadside.
I’m not alone. Because I’m accessible to drivers, I get messages and calls every day telling me what’s going on out there. There’s strain on the drivers and on the system like never before.
Now it seems we’re reverting to a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ idea.
The need for PCR tests and border passes has been removed. Therefore, the vaccination status of individuals is no longer being checked on the borders on the eastern states. The QR codes are still about, but I’m seeing large numbers of people ignoring them. Few places have staff on the door to check. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of interest in the whole ‘Covid thing’ any longer. I believe that’s a good thing. It’s well past time for us to move on.
The exception here is Western Australia. They’ve gone bat sh*t crazy over there.
PCR tests and passes are still required for truckies as well as the AQIS forms. There are more than a few eastern states operators now saying Western Australia is too hard – like a petulant child that could throw a tantrum at any moment when mum doesn’t buy the lolly at the shop!
I know one operator who was locked down in Western Australia as a close contact (the stores video showed he wasn’t!). That debacle cost him many thousands of dollars in lost work through no fault of his own. Who wants to open themselves up to that? My information is there are less trucks going into Western Australia. That will lead to issues in their supply chain. Because, just like everywhere else, most of it gets to Western Australia on the back of a truck.
There are a number of other issues bubbling away in our supply chain now and they’re all starting to come together.
We have the bombshell revelation by the Transport Workers Union (TWU) that Covid-positive transport workers are being told to return to work. The TWU has released a survey exposing incidents with reports of workers asked to return while still Covid-positive or symptomatic and close contacts told not to test before returning to work. The survey of 2,500 workers in freight, logistics, distribution centres, passenger transport, waste, food delivery, and aviation revealed 90 per cent did not want to work alongside close contacts. This is all on top of an actual driver shortage.
The pallet shortage. Believe it or not, the humble wooden pallet is essential to the smooth functioning of the logistical puzzle. Most things are shipped on a standard sized wooden pallet. A number of factors affect the availability of pallets. It can be as simple as a limited supply of logs to the mill, and then to the pallet manufacturer. That is an issue, but that’s not the only problem. Covid has disrupted the supply chain. Manufacturers have stockpiled pallets with their products sitting on them. Then there’s the old story of receivers rejecting pallets that are in any way damaged. They also have a dollar value. Chep and Loscam hire pallets to companies. They must all be accounted for. If they get lost they must be paid for. It’s a never-ending circle.
We are still under the cloud of the looming Adblue crisis. Once again, most people have no idea what this means. Many of the larger freight forwarders require trucks to be Euro 5 or 6 compliant to carry their freight. They must have some form of SCR (selective catalytic reduction) or EGR (exhaust gas recirculation) system installed to comply. It’s all about being ‘green’ and ‘kinder to the environment’. Without going into the technical detail, all we need to understand is that the exhaust gasses are treated to reduce emissions.
The short story is trucks needing Adblue can’t legally be run without it. That doesn’t mean they won’t run. If you turn off the Adblue in the control module it will run perfectly fine – it’s just no longer meeting Australian Standards. If it is no longer compliant, the operator is breaking the law. I’m seeing Adblue pumps with no Adblue, price gouging like you wouldn’t believe, as well as hoarding and limits on purchase volumes where it is available. Just to add to the fun the authorities are out there plugging in to the truck computers to make sure it’s all still turned on.
There’s no doubt in my mind that we’re just winging it at the moment. Believe the politicians who say it’s all under control if you want… But the view I’ve got from my spot behind the wheel is we’re in for a rough year.
There are answers on the horizon. But they’re all a fair way off.
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