Comment: NZ industry must focus on what’s in our control

By: Nick Leggett, Road Transport CEO


COVID-19's impact on New Zealand's economy means we could be heading towards a major recession in road transport

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The coronavirus is having a massive impact on New Zealand’s economy and the reality is we’re heading for a major recession and major downturns in many sectors of road transport.

It will take some time to get clarity of the situation, especially as the health implications and the self-isolations continue. RTF continues to collect information and intelligence from industry members and other sectors of the economy as it’s important we stay abreast of the key challenges as they develop and change.

So much of this is out of New Zealand’s control, as it reflects the disruption the spread of the virus and the international containment efforts are having on global supply chains. However, taking necessary health precautions are very much in our control and I strongly urge all road transport businesses to do that.

New Zealand is well-served by extremely competent government officials, including the impressive Dr Ashley Bloomfield, who’s leading the health response to the crisis, and our trade officials, who are doing all they can to maintain our international trading relationships. 

The best advice RTF can give is to focus on the things that you can influence, particularly the health of you and your employees and the potential efficiencies you can drive in your business to help you get through. The first and most immediate responsibility for operators is to adequately provide for the health and safety of their staff.

The Health and Safety at Work Act requires businesses to mitigate health and safety risks and protect their workers from them, so far as is practicable, and that includes from communicable diseases. All businesses should continue with their usual health and safety systems in line with the legislation, in particular around good hygiene practices.

RTF has set up a page on our website with the most up-to-date guidance we have to help transport companies deal with this complex issue and meet their obligations to provide a safe environment for their employees. The page includes advice to help you with the following specific procedures: 

  • Notifying staff of health and safety requirements
  • Providing washing and waste disposal facilities
  • Providing a clean, well-ventilated workplace
  • Ensuring protective gear, if required
  • Organising workflow to reduce the ​​risk of infection
  • Monitoring workplace health
  • What to do if there’s suspected infection
  • Options for managing employee absences

I’d urge all operators to keep a daily watch on rtfnz.co.nz/covid-19/ for this information as well as important updates from government and NZTA along with where to go to access the various elements of the government support package.

Operators should also keep a watch on the business.govt.nz website, which is regularly updated with government advice for businesses, including links that further explain your health and safety obligations, accessing the government support package and tax relief, advice on travel as well as how to develop a business continuity plan to prepare for further disruptions and emergencies.     

As the RTF is best-placed to work with government, we’re tasked with taking the lead role in distributing relevant information through our associations and out to our wider membership.

It’s critically important that the information distributed is accurate, as, with so much intense media coverage around the virus and its impacts, misinformation is almost inevitable. Circulation of the wrong information at the wrong time could be detrimental to our industry.

The reality is that what we’re experiencing now in terms of the impact on the economy is just the start. It’s likely that the effects could last for many months. This is something that operators should be preparing themselves for as well as accessing government assistance. I recommend discussing with your bank the options you may have to alleviate cash flow difficulties.

RTF will continue to do all we can to help operators through this difficult time and we will persist in making government ministers and officials aware of just how tough it is for our industry as the coming recession bites. If you have any specific information, anecdotal or statistical that you think could help us with this effort, please get in touch with me via e-mail: nick@rtf.nz.

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