Time to show truck drivers some appreciation

This week we have seen once again, the contribution truck drivers make to New Zealand.

Through natural disasters, pandemics, Covid-19 level changes and lockdowns, and all weathers, truck drivers keep delivering the essentials New Zealanders need to live on a daily basis.

As with the Level 3 lockdown of Auckland in August last year, this week’s move to Level 3 in Auckland again presented many challenges for trucking operators and their drivers with lengthy delays at some road blocks. The photo above shows the south bound traffic, between Pokeno and Mercer on Monday evening.

So it seems particularly timely that next week is National Truck Driver Appreciation Week, from 22 to 28 February. The theme is: truck drivers deliver.

As we are close to entering year two of Covid-19 restrictions, including the New Zealand border remaining closed indefinitely, it is fair to say, on-time delivery is a moving feast. The supply chain is stretched so tight we all have our fingers crossed it won’t break completely.

While road blocks on Auckland’s borders present an inconvenience for people in cars, for truck drivers the impacts are significant. If they are stuck in traffic for two to three hours, as has happened this week, that can be detrimental, or even dangerous, to their cargo, for example, live animals or perishable goods. Animal welfare is a major concern and goods that spoil unnecessarily cost everyone. These delays can also push the driver over the legal hours they are allowed to work, which has safety implications. But they can’t just walk out of the line of traffic and abandon their load.

Police have told us trucking operators should be prepared to adjust on time delivery this week. With all due respect, even our industry’s master logistics planners are challenged when large numbers of Aucklanders ignore the parameters of the alert level and try and get in our out of the area when they are patently, not allowed. On Monday it was reported that the Police estimated 25 percent of those who queued at the Mercer border road block were “unnecessary travellers”. That one-in-four caused mayhem for the others around them.

After the lengthy delays at road blocks in Auckland’s Level 3 last year, the Road Transport Forum asked government officials if things could be learned from that, so that improvements could be made for the inevitable next lockdown.

Sadly, we didn’t see any evidence of that this week. There were times when it actually seemed worse. But truck drivers did what they always do, and just got on with the job as best they could. That is not to say there have not been costs associated with this lockdown and negative impacts on businesses, but that’s another story.

It is important that truck drivers get the credit they deserve and there are a number of events being organised around New Zealand next week to do that. We would like to thank NZ Truck & Drivermagazine for organising and promoting the week and you can find out more about it here.

If you are out and about next week, alert levels permitting, give a truck driver a wave of appreciation.

– Nick Leggett, CEO, Road Transport Forum


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