The transport industry is seeking to agree a deal with the Government and the HSE for a single plan to ease deliveries to hospitals during the Covid-19 crisis.
Aidan Flynn, general manager at Freight Transport Association Ireland, said that couriers and hauliers are seeking “an organised” plan to cover all hospitals in the State and to end a piecemeal approach that could delay the delivery of all vital supplies.
“There are instances in which courier firms delivering to hospitals have been concerned by the absence of an organised approach in accepting deliveries at hospitals, and in one or two instances having to walk past isolation areas,” said Mr Flynn.
“We have been asking the Government and the HSE to rectify the problem with a national policy to cover every single hospital, because to keep the supply chain going and safe, there has to be changes to the way that these packages are delivered — and in many cases these are vital paperwork and medication being delivered to hospitals.”
Mr Flynn said that the freight industry was struggling like everyone else to deal with the issues in terms of cash flow and liquidity and changing hours.
Some parts of the industry are doing well, including freight transport and couriers, which include retail and pharmaceutical deliveries and the courier business, he said.
“But others in the food servicing industry such as the restaurants have gone completely dead. The driver shortages that were there just a month ago have gone, but there is also a sense of community in sharing services and helping companies out,” said Mr Flynn.
“In the UK, more than half of their trucks are parked up because every business that closes means that trucks are laid up. Here, the shutdown of building sites means trucks are being laid up because so many building products and cement deliveries and timber manufacturing and all the ancillary supplies have all stopped.”
He said that there have been no reports of distribution centres shutting down because of illness, which he said was “massively encouraging” in terms of trying to keep the supply chain going.
Distribution centres are still vulnerable, however, but he said he was surprised at the way people have worked together.
“The industry has been quite good at managing its workforce — in case one team went down, there would be another team to replace it,” he said.
However, issues remain with international supply chains, with goods ordered weeks or months in advance by industries in shutdown still coming into the ports from all around the world.
He said that the order by the Department of Transport to take containers out of ports has created problems because they may have nowhere to go and no one to pay from them because payments are not made until goods are delivered.
“If they are left at the ports they could clog up the ports and we have asked the Government for parking space for unaccompanied trailers that are coming in from the UK and the continent and which are not going to be picked up straight away,” he said.
“We have asked for spaces put aside as part of the Brexit planning to alleviate choke points to allow ferries to be turned around straight away.”