The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) has called on state and territory governments to abolish operational curfews on freight and logistics activities.
This comes in the wake of major gains in efficiencies seen since they were temporarily lifted to boost the supply chain during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stripped supermarket shelves and unprecedented consumer demand saw the resupply of goods hamstrung by restrictive curfews on supermarket deliveries and heavy vehicle access to routes that prohibited the movement of essential freight.
As industry looks towards the challenges of economic recovery ALC CEO Kirk Coningham said the restrictive practices that limit operational flexibility of logistics businesses and freight carriers were the last thing that they needed.
"The removal of curfews is an obvious opportunity that will be of lasting benefit to the freight and logistics sector and to all Australian communities,” he said.
“The most visible manifestation of the COVID-19 crisis for many Australians was the sight of supermarket shelves that had been stripped bare due to panic buying. The single most effective government action taken to address this challenge did not involve massive expenditure, but the stroke of a ministerial pen.
“The existence of curfews that prohibit deliveries during certain hours were a significant barrier to keeping shelves stocked. Yet, in the space of just over a week, governments in state and territory jurisdictions took action to remove or suspend curfews and give logistics companies the flexibility needed to facilitate overnight deliveries into supermarkets and other retail outlets. This permitted stock levels to return to normal relatively quickly, despite extraordinarily heightened levels of demand,” said Coningham.
While the benefits of removing these restrictions had been clearly demonstrated, Coningham called attention to the lack of interest in the community for their reinstatement.
He said governments should feel empowered to act and make their removal permanent citing that overnight deliveries to retail premises, curfews on port operations and airport noise restrictions were inhibitive to stimulating the economy.
“Given the significant economic challenges now faced by many logistics operators and their customers, the last thing they need is a return to restrictive practices that limit operational flexibility and prevent Australians getting access to their day-to-day essentials,” he said.
“As physical distancing requirements mean fewer Australians use public transport, road congestion in our major cities will be a major challenge. Removing curfews that prevent overnight deliveries will allow freight operators to schedule more tasks during off-peak periods.
“Similarly, increasing demand for home delivery of essential items including groceries is likely to be an enduring feature of supply chains post-COVID. The removal of curfews will give logistics operators and their customers greater capacity and flexibility when using the road network to meet this growth in demand.
“The experience of COVID-19 has given Australians a renewed understanding of how vital the efficient and safe operation of supply chains is for households and businesses. Governments have a responsibility to ensure that going forward, logistics operators have the operational flexibility they need to get the job done and keep supporting Australia’s economic recovery.”
“Removing curfews is a low-cost, common sense measure that will help achieve that outcome.”