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Pacific National has taken risk advantage of using long-haul rail freight as trucking struggles with the pandemic’s evolving impacts.
The intervention is timely for the mode as long-distance road freight battles to fix an ageing driver profile, opposition to vaccine mandates, a lack of skills and fewer young entrants and imported labour, with reforms such as the new apprenticeship very much a longer-term fix.
"The Omicron outbreak has again highlighted the innate benefits of hauling large volumes of goods and commodities over large distances by rail," Pacific National CEO Paul Scurrah, who is also a member of the Freight on Rail Group (FORG), said.
"A typical 1,500-metre interstate freight train operating between Melbourne and Sydney hauls 215 containers and is equivalent to 90 cross border truck trips.
"Where 90 truck drivers are needed, only two train drivers are required to move the same volume of freight.
"Since March 2020, Pacific National has put in place rigorous systems and processes to ensure social distancing and stringent hygiene standards to reduce the risk of our freight train crews and terminal staff being exposed to Covid.
"Among our employees we only recorded a handful of positive Covid cases over the course of 2020 and 2021, despite having terminals located in major Covid hotspots.
"Because of these protections, our workers have continued to provide 800 services each week across the mainland to help keep freight flowing.
"Today, less than 10 per cent of our 2,300 frontline workforce is furloughed due to Covid, allowing us to continue to service the freight needs of our 400 customers.
"As a business we are finding transmission of the virus is largely occurring out in the community, rather than within the workplace.
"Omicron impacts on workers who service supermarket distribution centres and retail stores is currently the weakest link in the national supply chain.
"As we see in daily news bulletins, keeping shop shelves stocked has become a real challenge.
"Road freight has also been harder hit than rail freight."
This article first appeared on www.fullyloaded.com.au
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