Leading Victoria-based heavy vehicle manufacturers will be able to provide vehicle service and repair capabilities as well as manufacturing operations under the recently announced COVID-19 restrictions CRT News has learned.
Commercial vehicle manufacturers PACCAR, MaxiTRANS, Vawdrey Australia, Bulk Transport Equipment, Krueger Transport Equipment and Alltruck Bodies have gone to great lengths to reinforce safety through protocols including split shifts, reduced work forces, temperature checks and social distancing.
Truck and trailer parts suppliers are permitted to remain open to ensure the heavy vehicle supply chain continues to operate as the Victorian Government announced further restrictions to limit the movement of over one million people across the state.
Truck component and technology suppliers such as Dana, Meritor, WABCO, Gough Transport Solutions, Hendrickson and SAF-Holland have world best practice in place to ensure workplace safety will allow each to continue to support OE manufacturers.
Major manufacturers like Fuwa K-Hitch were mindful of the severe impact and pain inflicted by the pandemic on industry according to General Manager Rocco Aloisio.
"Given events of the past days and the requirement for Victorians in particular to continue to endure these extremely trying times it is imperative the transport industry remains stoic," he told CRT.
"We see it more important than ever that transport and its support and manufacturing sectors is allowed to continue to provide the valuable support required to assist our communities to navigate through these troubled times,” Aloisio said.
As a whole, industry from manufacturing, aftersales service and parts support had implemented the best possible practices and procedures to safeguard employees to allow supply chains to supply vital goods and services he said.
"Fuwa K-Hitch has been operating under strict protocols for virtually the whole year and will continue to do so as long as required to ensure we are playing our part." said Aloisio.
Driveline components supplier, Dana, has gone to great lengths to ensure it can supply original equipment manufacturers as well as the aftermarket in response to the fluid COVID-19 environment.
The world class maker of driveline technology confirmed it had used a template of different scenarios at its Keysborough manufacturing plant to prepare its staff with appropriate procedures in anticipation of the latest sequence of lockdowns prompted by the state government.
Despite the latest disruption, Dana Managing Director Nick Stavrakis said the facility and work force was well prepared for the latest announcement.
"The safety of our people is paramount and we contingencies at the ready to keep all our valued staff informed and safe during these unique times," he said.
"These preventative measures have reinforced the integrity of our manufacturing processes and ensured the ongoing sustainability of our supply chain so that deliveries will continue to our customers uninterrupted."
As Victoria entered the strictest lockdown yet to manage the latest outbreak of cases, some in industry were buoyed by knowing heavy vehicle transport was recognised as a vital link to infrastructure, constructions, agriculture, food transport and other goods.
Amid what has fast become an evolving situation for manufacturers this week, Meritor Managing Director David Cole considered the exemption welcoming news for the industry.
“The recognition by the Victorian government again reconfirms the essential nature of the transport industry at both a state and national level in supplying new trucks, and also the ongoing supply of replacement parts, to ensure transport and supply chains can remain fully operational,” he said in a statement.
“For truck, component manufacturers and replacement parts suppliers, we need to be here to perform our role in the heavy vehicle industry next to our customers and assure confidence to all Australia we will keep this country moving,” said Cole.
Bulk Transport Equipment Director, Alan Griffiths, said despite the extensive list of criteria there remained some grey areas for Victorian manufacturers.
"The Transport equipment manufacturing sector employs a considerable workforce and remains viable and robust despite Covid-19." said Griffiths. "I am sure this exemption will be seen as a positive outcome for all sectors associated with the industry."
Smedley's Engineers Director and Senior Engineer, Robert Smedley, said many vehicles had been scheduled for production, specifically for food delivery, that require his company's services.
"It seems we will be covered under services which are required to support businesses that are allowed to remain open," he said. "We have however also implemented strategies to reduce our movements further. For vehicles that are going into service in New South Wales, or other states outside of Victoria, for example, we will conduct those services in those states, rather than before they leave Victoria."
The supply chain or goods and services to the transport sector, according to Smedley, is very complicated and intertwined.
"Shutting down one aspect that might seem unrelated to transport can grind the whole system to a halt. This therefore requires some very careful consideration," he said. "It is also still unclear how services like ours will provide evidence that we are allowed to continue the site work we do. If there are permits being issued, how will we get them?"
Smedley emphasised it is a stressful time as a small business owner.
"We are as busy as we have ever been, so it would make it very hard to deliver the volume of work we have on if we are shut down," he said.
The Victorian Transport Association (VTA) has reassured the community the transport industry is open for business to support Victorians over the weeks ahead.
“Victoria is in crisis, and as we enter a period of unprecedented restrictions on our personal freedoms and our ability to work, it is essential that we come together to understand the challenges we face, and work in unison to stop the spread of coronavirus and the havoc it is wreaking across our state,” said VTA CEO, Peter Anderson.
“The transport and logistics industries will continue to be able to operate over the coming period in order to support the distribution of essential goods, and to support those businesses that are permitted to operate with their supply chain requirements,” he said.
Premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews, has outlined additional restrictions around work which is expected to have long lasting effects on the state and national economy.
“In formulating the new arrangements, the government has recognised the vital role of our industry so that state and national supply chain disruptions are minimised, and Victorians have uninterrupted access to fresh food, groceries, medicine and petrol,” said Anderson.
Anderson said Andrews was right to emphasise the complexity of the national supply chain and that Melbourne has the biggest container port in Australia that must remain operational to facilitate national and international trade.
Many transport operators will experience a significant downturn, Anderson said, notwithstanding the industry’s ability to work.
“Clearly operators that service businesses that have been required to close or reduce their total output will be impacted to varying levels,” said Anderson. “The VTA is a tremendous resource during unprecedented times like this and is open and available to assist members and the industry during these challenging times.”
Since coronavirus took hold in February, the transport industry has shown leadership and adapted its systems and processes to be able to safely and efficiently service the needs of customers and consumers and keep supply chains moving.
“As we prepare for further restrictions to their lives and livelihoods, let’s all heed the advice of state and Commonwealth jurisdictions and work together so that we can reduce community transmission,” said Anderson. “And start to get our economy back on a positive footing as soon as possible.”