Border testing of hauliers will disrupt food and medicine supply, warns union

Freight trucks queue up at Dover Port in Dover, Britain, 19 December 2020. [EFE/ANDY RAIN]

Mandatory COVID-19 testing of goods transport drivers at borders will lead to “devastating consequences” if implemented, forcing supply chains for essentials such as food and medicine to “grind to a halt”, the International Road Transport Union (IRU) has said in a letter to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

The letter, sent on Wednesday (20 January) and signed by Umberto de Pretto, the secretary-general of the industry federation, condemns any attempt to impose COVID-19 testing on freight drivers within the EU.

It cited the chaos faced by hauliers in the UK port of Dover last December, which followed the decision that drivers must display a negative COVID-19 test before entering France.

The French decision to require a negative test was taken to curb the spread of the significantly more infectious COVID-19 variant discovered in England. A lack of testing facilities for hauliers led to huge tailbacks, with many drivers from across Europe stranded at the port for days.

According to the IRU, these tests only resulted in a 0.3% positive rate for COVID-19, a finding they say is unsurprising due to the solitary nature of international freight driving.

However, the letter warned that should new virus strains continue to spread, Germany may also decide to block entry to its territory unless hauliers can provide a negative PCR test, an action they say would cause a “domino effect with dramatic and rapid consequences on EU-wide supply chains.”

The IRU predicted that such a move would lead to even greater disruption than the blockage in Dover, hitting fresh food and medicine provision across the continent.

In October, EU countries called on the European Commission to draw up a pandemic plan for the European freight transport sector which would maintain cross-border freight operations and ensure the free movement of transport workers.

In their letter, the IRU warned that mandatory COVID-19 testing contravenes this commitment and appealed directly to President von der Leyen to intervene.

“[Imposing testing] will severely damage supply chains, the single market, and the lives of millions of EU citizens – at a huge cost, and without any material benefit to controlling the virus,” stated the letter.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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