National Road Carriers Association (NRC) chief executive David Aitken has announced that the road transport industry is ramping up to ensure the continued smooth delivery of essential supplies including food and grocery to supermarkets, and medicines to hospitals and medical centres during the Covid-19 lockdown.

“To support this we are creating a database of drivers who are not working but available to stand in for drivers who become ill, or drivers who choose not to work during the pandemic because they are at greater risk, such as older drivers,” explained Aitken.

Mr Aitken said the database of drivers would mean NRC’s member base throughout New Zealand will be able to easily access relief drivers to ensure essential supplies are available during the government’s four-week lockdown. 

NRC had already helped overcome a driver shortage last week when it put out a call to members for trucks and drivers available to assist a member who needed extra capacity to keep up with supermarket demand.

To comply with the Government’s shutdown announcement yesterday, Mr Aitken said the NRC office itself would, over the next 48 hours, be moving to a virtual operation working remotely.

“On behalf of the road transport industry we want to reassure New Zealanders that road transport companies will keep operating as Covid-19 moves through its phases. We will work by phone, email and Zoom to continue to support our members, so they can focus on the stability of their businesses and the wellbeing of their staff and families.”

The Ministry of Transport this morning released a list of essential transport services which, for delivery of freight by land, includes:

* Workers and operators involved in the delivery of road and rail freight e.g. Road and Rail Freight Operators and Receivers

* Drivers, including large trucks and trains, grocery distribution (e.g. supermarkets and My Food Bag)

* Logistics firms and their contractors

* Courier services and NZ Post

View the full list here

Aitken said the key message for New Zealanders was to stay calm when it came to supplies because:

  • New Zealand transport companies are resilient and have responded quickly and responsibly to the challenges posed by the Covid-19 crisis. They are well-run by capable businesspeople and managers and staffed with experienced drivers.
  • The road transport sector stood up and shone during previous crises, like the Kaikoura, Christchurch earthquakes, to ensure communities got essential supplies.
  • It is confident the Government and banks recognise the road transport sector is an essential industry and will provide any support our businesses need to keep operating in order to keep supplies moving.
  • China and Italy have shown that essential goods can continue to be delivered even in the worst affected areas.
  • It expects the supply chain (road, rail, sea and air) will continue to function, and keep stocks supplied.

Aitken concluded that the trucking industry would play a vital role in delivering essential supplies for New Zealanders as the pandemic progresses through the expected phases and as business and social life returns to normal.