Coronavirus: Truckies want fast lanes in and out of Auckland to keep supply chains intact

Truck drivers are calling for a fast-track lane through Auckland's border restrictions, saying they and the city's panic-buying is putting the supply chain at risk.

There are blockades at both ends of the city to stop people coming in or going out without a valid reason, after a number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 - the first in more than 100 days in the community. 

The Road Transport Forum, which represents the country's truckies and freight industry, says delays on freight could leave supermarket shelves bare as people raid them for supplies ahead of what could be a second lengthy lockdown.

Chief executive Nick Leggett says demand for supply is high as people panic-buy.

"When people are buying up large at the supermarket, there's clearly a run on food and other vital goods - those come on the back of trucks. There are often not a lot of things in storage. Trucks being able to move from region to region are vital."

In some cases the border checks have added more than a couple of hours to travel between Auckland and Wellington, Leggett said, urging police to wave them through where possible.

"We want to see trucks being moved through much faster than regular traffic so they can meet their delivery obligations. There is always a risk that products - both essential and non-essential products - could be slowed. 

"The point is you slow freight down, you cost people money and you make it harder for many businesses already struggling in this COVID economy."

Police are seeking Auckland Transport's sign-off for a slip lane for trucks at the southern border, hopefully by the end of Thursday on the right lane from the Ramarama off-ramp.

"The northern border is more problematic as there are a number of rural roads that could be used as bypasses," a Road Transport Forum spokesperson told Newshub.

Freight is otherwise exempted from the usual travel restrictions. 

Like during the March-April lockdown, supermarkets are adamant their supply chains are robust and there's no need to panic-buy. Empty shelves are due to people buying more than they need, rather than a lack of supply.

"We would like to reassure customers that, just like before, our supply chain is robust. We are working hard to make sure all the grocery items New Zealand households might need are on the shelf and readily available," Pak'nSave and New World operator Foodstuffs said in a statement. 

"We ask that shoppers shop normal - this is the best way to ensure no pressure is put on the supply chain. Just buy what you need, as you need it... help us by being kind to one another, we know how to do this."

The Road Transport Forum is also warning truckies not to smuggle people in and out of the city.

"The police have advised us that there are forums where truck drivers are offering to guide people in and out of Auckland, or pick up passengers on the back routes," it said on its website on Thursday.

"All transport needs to stick to the main routes and follow the rules. This behaviour is very damaging to the trucking industry and to the work we are trying to do to get better access for trucks through checkpoints."