Truck drivers should be next in line for COVID-19 Vaccine

Truck drivers should be next in line for COVID-19 Vaccine

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The supply chain is valuable and could pose a significant risk if COVID-19 were to spread.

Freight in New Zealand is an important sector to our society as truckies deliver food and supply resources to communities.

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins received a letter written to him in January by Road Transport Forum Chief Executive Nick Leggett enquiring about COVID-19 vaccination priorities.

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“The trucking industry is keen to understand when its frontline workers (mainly drivers) might be in line for a vaccination and whether they will be given priority over the general population, given their importance in keeping the supply chain running,” said Leggett.

“We see increasing urgency in getting truck drivers vaccinated when you note what is happening in Auckland, our largest city and home to our major port.”

Yo-yoing lockdowns have had massive impacts on moving freight throughout the country amid COVID-19 outbreaks, especially in Auckland, putting the large workforce at risk.

Port workers at the Ports of Auckland have been vaccinated, but it is a matter of time before a high-risk business, typically in the food industry, starts demanding that workers at their sites get vaccinated.

However, the driver workforce is a higher priority, and the RTF asked the Minister to consider them due to the nature of work they undertake.

“Transport operators are keen to mitigate risk and exposure of their employees to COVID-19 as soon as possible and some clarity on vaccination prioritisation would be useful so they can plan,” said Leggett.

“We have also asked for legal clarification around employers being able to require their staff to be vaccinated. This could emerge as an issue in New Zealand, and we think it is especially relevant for both employers and employees in critical industries to understand where the law sits on this point.”

“The Government will not achieve a 100% vaccination rate, but it will be important to have frontline and critical staff vaccinated, and we would like to be able to inform transport operators of their responsibilities and rights around employee vaccination requirements as soon as possible,” added Leggett.

Over 32,000 people are employed in the transport industry, which makes up two percent of the workforce. An annual turnover of $6 billion, transporting ninety-three percent of the total tonnes of freight, of over 16-18,000 trucks, in road freight transport that is moved around the country.

Image: SUPPLIED/ Gettyimages

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