Trucking sector suffering as coronavirus outbreak stalls freight

The coronavirus outbreak in China is having a serious impact on the New Zealand trucking sector, with an industry leader predicting it could get worse.

The National Road Carriers Association (NRC) represents 1800 road transport companies collectively operating 16,000 trucks throughout New Zealand.

Chief Executive, David Aitken said companies which carry exports like logs and meat to ports or Chinese imports to New Zealand warehouses and retailers were feeling the pinch. 

"It's potentially going to get worse quickly," said Aitken.

"With Chinese towns and cities in lockdown, many factories are closed and therefore not taking goods, nor producing goods. We are aware of importers who are not able to place orders and expect to run short if production doesn't get back to normal soon. "This has consequences for our sector," he said.

A number of forestry operations throughout the country have stopped logging with the Forest Industry Contractors Association reporting about 30 percent of the country's logging crews are unable to work amid the supply chain disruption and no one knows how long the situation will last. 

"This will have a flow-on effect to truck operators."

The outbreak is having a serious impact on New Zealand trucking firms.
The outbreak is having a serious impact on New Zealand trucking firms. Photo credit: Getty

Meat works have reduced kills for the China market meaning farmers are having to keep stock even during the drought conditions we are experiencing, so stock are not being carried to the meat processors, and processed goods are not transported to ships. 

"We understand freezers and chillers are full so this will further affect the processors' ability to take stock.

"There are also limited goods coming out of China, so the number of containers with goods destined for New Zealand shop shelves is expected to be down. These are just some of the effects, all of which will reduce the number of road transport movements."

Aitken said NRC was advising its trucking company members to be aware of the situation and plan where possible.

"We are telling trucking companies to do what they can to keep their company infrastructure in place. When this virus blows over, which it will, there will be a mad rush to move goods around again. Chinese people need to eat, and China needs materials to get its industries up and running again."

Silver Fern Farms chief executive Simon Limmer told RNZ that the company was working hard to try and balance storage and processing capacity.

"It's a little bit of a perfect storm I guess at the moment because whilst we've got big livestock flows, plus the drought really putting pressure on processing capacity, the coronavirus situation has meant we don't have a lot of confidence to in our ability, or the supply chains ability to get product into China just at the moment."

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