Information from the RTF on COVID-19

Information from the RTF on COVID-19

Please note as at 9 November 2020: 

The RTF is the central point of communication to and from Government and the national media for the road freight transport industry. We keep this page updated daily with information needed by road freight operators.

We are in ongoing discussions with the government officials putting all the measures in place during New Zealand’s response to the Covid-19 virus. 

Monday 9 November

There are ongoing issues with the supply chain and the RTF is bringing this to the attention of Government.

Below is some advice from the Ports and Mainfreight regarding the current movement of goods.

Ports of Auckland

Ports of Auckland is currently heavily congested with vessels arriving and some are taking up to a week to unload all containers – information from them below: 

Vessels are continuing to be worked at the Terminal, albeit, at lower productivity levels than we would wish for at this time. This is primarily due to the back to back demand of vessels and volume, balancing labour supply within fatigue risk parameters as well as continued trialling of vessels and truck moves through Automation as we work through the inevitable systems and process changes needed to bring the operation up to a steady state.

All parties will know that vessels are being delayed, on average up to 7-10 days with a risk of further slippages as we continue through the rest of this month into December. We are in the process of creating a longer view of expected berthing times for vessels working at the Terminal to give customers an ‘indication’ of when goods might be required for export or imports coming off ships to better help plan cargo movements. Due to the dynamic and changing environment it is difficult for Lines and ourselves to ensure that our websites are 100% accurate all the time.

We fully appreciate the urgent need for goods to connect to/from vessels, but these delays

Port of Tauranga

Port of Tauranga has had an influx of containers due to vessels attempting to avoid Auckland which has now caused a rail backlog of approx. a week, this means containers are taking up to a week if not longer to rail to Auckland and priority bookings can be requested however the containers will still not rail as quickly as previously.

Port of Tauranga and Metroport as a result have reduced the number of free days for dwell at their ports to encourage containers to be collected quickly in the hope of easing some congestion – information from them below:

We are still doing our best with all available resources to manage the immense number of containers waiting to rail north as quickly as we possibly can.

In fairness to everybody who has cargo caught up in the backlog, we are working firstly with those containers that have been here the longest.

Estimated turnaround times as at today are:
10-12 days from date of discharge for general cargo.
3-5 days from date of discharge for containers that were priority managed by you through Shuttle Select.

NB: With such an unprecedented demand for Northbound rail, currently containers can only be prioritised before they discharge the vessel.

Once they have landed in the yard as general cargo, we cannot control their position or other containers that will inevitably surround  them making them inaccessible.”

Notice from Mainfreight – 8 November 2020

Service Announcement | New Zealand Domestic Freight Volumes

As we head towards the Christmas period, we are witnessing a significant increase in freight volume across our network.  In most cases, this is nothing new as we traditionally provide extended services and resources to manage this peak.

However this year, volume has been exaggerated by the unique challenges brought on by COVID-19.  We are seeing signs of a compressed Christmas period emerging.  Normally volumes start to build in early September, increasing up to Christmas as stock arrives from around the world. This year, the period has shortened significantly as manufacturing, shipping and air services have altered.  These global dynamics are contributing to network pressures, including:

Coastal Shipping Schedules have been Disrupted

Slots for international vessels take priority at Ports of Auckland which means the weekly NZ coastal sailing is out of sync, leading to more freight being converted onto road and rail to reduce the extended transit times.

NZ Domestic Product Increase

With the delay in stock arriving into the country from international suppliers there has been an increase in domestic freight, with products being sourced locally as “next best” alternatives. This has created volume surges when overseas stock becomes available or arrives late, adding to the congestion – in road, rail and sea services which only have a finite capacity.

Stock Purchasing Pattern

The extended delay for imported products has also seen an increase in the quantities of stock arriving, as importers aim to hold more product in NZ.

Warehouse Services

A flow-on effect of the increase in import volume, has been the arrival of larger than normal batches of containers to our warehouses, creating significant pressure.  We have also seen service levels within each warehouse affected as stock becomes more urgent, due to the upstream delays in the supply chain. Our teams are working extended hours to manage this situation to the best of their ability. We ask for customers’ support through timeliness of order placement and extended picking and transit tolerances.

What is now important is that we all work together to collectively manage these unique challenges, starting with adjusting service expectations.

We ask you to consider the following when sending freight:

  • Book Early – When we receive consignment note uploads and freight early in the day, we can plan more effectively and improve segregation, line-haul capacity, etc
  • Transit Expectations – Where possible, please communicate with your customers around when they need product.  While we aim to get consignments to receivers in line with expectations, there will be delayed shipments and there will be delayed notification with our regional teams helping out in our operations
  • Urgent Shipments – Please advise urgent consignments through to our Customer Services team. They can provide available service options and tracking

We appreciate that this is a unique and testing time for all businesses. We believe working openly with our customers and starting with honest communication will make all the difference.

Notice from the IRU

On 4 November 2020, the IRU, the world road transport organisation representing over 3.5 million companies operatiting mobility and logistics services,  issued a position statement: IRU Covid-19 call for action to governments.

This statement warns goverment there is a risk that people and essential goods will not be transported to where and when they are needed if there is not serious attention paid to the global supply chain. You can read the statement here.

Monday 14 September

Required testing

The Ministry of Transport advises there has been an amendment to the Public Health Response (Required Testing) Order, which comes into force at 11.59pm on 16 September 2020.

The order extends the required testing of higher risk workers to all ports and Christchurch International Airport. The list of higher risk workers required to be tested regularly remains the same as the previous version of the order. Although all ports are included, there is the following exemption:  “An affected person who works at an affected port is not required to undergo testing and medical examination under clause 7 if a ship has not arrived at the affected port from a location outside New Zealand for a period of at least 14 consecutive days.”

The revised order is available here.

Information from the Ministry of Transport

For all of the latest Alert Level transport guidance and information on the Ministry of Transport’s webpage:

The official government COVID-19 website remains the primary source of government information on COVID

Thursday 13 August

Order from the Ministry of Health – All business and services must display the official government QR code for the NZ COVID Tracer App

Yesterday (Wednesday 12 August), the Government issued the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Alert Levels 3 and 2) Order 2020 to manage any further spread of COVID-19 in New Zealand.

The Order includes a requirement during Alert Levels 2 and 3 for all businesses and services:

  • to display the official government QR code for the NZ COVID Tracer App, and
  • have systems and processes in place to otherwise support contact tracing for people who do not scan in with the NZ COVID Tracer app (such as a pen-and-paper register or a digital sign-in system).

These contact tracing requirements come into force at 11:59pm on 19 August 2020.

For more information on these matters see Nick Leggett’s Advisory here.

Guidance and protocols

When we went to Level 3 earlier in the year, WorkSafe signed off guidance and protocols developed by the RTF to help businesses transition to Alert Level 3. These include  Covid-19 workplace protocols for road freight transport, as guidance to businesses moving to Alert Level 3. You may need to refresh your memory on what is required.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated its Covid-19 advice, available here.

Advisories and media releases

On Friday 30 October, Road Transport Forum chief executive Nick Leggett wrote this blog about the need to urgengy focus on the supply chain.

On Thursday 20 August, Road Transport Forum chief executive Nick Leggett wrote this blog about the state of the Government’s preparedness for the Covid-19 resurgence in Auckland.

On Tuesday 18 August, Road Transport Forum chief executive Nick Leggett issued this Advisory on Auckland road border documentation and port testing.

On Monday 17 August, Road Transport Forum chief executive issued this Advisory around border issues in Auckland and testing at the Ports of Auckland and Port of Tauranga.

On Saturday 15 August, Road Transport Forum chief executive Nick Leggett put out this media release about the mayhem caused by a rapid order to test truck drivers at Ports of Auckland and Port of Tauranga.

RTF CE Nick Leggett issued this Advisory.

On Friday 14 August, Nick Leggett has written this blog about transporting goods under the changing Covid-19 alert levels.

On Thursday 13 August, Road Transport Forum chief executive Nick Leggett put out this Advisory on Auckland border control and the Government QR code.

On Wednesday 12 August, Road Transport Forum chief executive Nick Leggett put out this Advisory on Police control of Auckland roads, including check points at the entry/exits to Auckland.

On Wednesday 12 August, Road Transport Forum chief executive Nick Leggett put out this Advisory with the initial advice from the Ministry of Transport.

On Wednesday 12 August, Road Transport Forum chief executive Nick Leggett issued this media release asking for clarity from the Government about Auckland’s border control for trucking operators.


On Monday 17 August, the Minister of Health Chris Hipkins signed an amdment to the  Covid-19 Public Health Response (Covid-19 Testing) Amendment Order 2020, extending the timeframe of the previous order and introducing a new definition of higher risk workers to be tested. You can view that here.

On Wednesday 12 August, Health Minister Chris Hipkins signed this Covid-19 Public Health Response (Alert Levels 3 and 2) Order 2020 which permits freight to move.

On 13 May the New Zealand Government passed the COVID-19 Public Health Response Bill under urgency. This is to provide the legal framework for managing COVID-19.

Other information

Where to buy PPE

Hand sanitiser and face masks are available here.

Financial information for businesses

All the Government’s up-to-date information about financial support for businesses is available here.

On 17 August,  Finance Minister Grant Robertson announced  that workers whose jobs may be affected by the re-emergence of Covid-19 in Auckland will be supported by a new wage subsidy scheme and a simplified leave scheme. You can read the media release here.


12 August, RTF media release, Covid level moves create supply chain issues

15 August, RTF media release, Mayhem at the ports bewildering

15 August, Stuff, Coronavirus: Havoc for trucking operators under ports’ Covid-19 testing rules

16 August, Newshub, ‘It’s not possible: 12,000 Auckland and Tauranga port workers unlikely to get COVID-19 tests by deadline

17 August, NZ Herald, Covid 19 coronavirus: Auckland and Tauranga port communities caught in mass Covid-19 test order

17 August, AM show,Silly rules’: Truckies to ignore deadline for getting COVID-19 test

17 August, TransportTalk, RTF questions COVID-19 testing of truck drivers

17 August, NewstalkZB, Police add more checkpoints to daily gridlock

17 August, Newshub 6pm news, Chronically-ill Northlander trapped in Auckland due to police checkpoints

18 August, RNZ, Covid-19: Truck drivers complain of hours stuck at Auckland border

18 August, NZ Herald, Covid-19 Coronavirus: Government relaxes Auckland and Tauranga ports blanket testing order

Nick Leggett’s blogs:

Heading down the uncertain Covid-19 road