In response to a new surge of COVID-19 infections in Latin America, governments have implemented a patchwork of uncoordinated measures with a disastrous impact on the trucking industry, endangering the supply chains that it underpins.
Argentina and Chile have announced a requirement for foreign truck drivers to present a negative PCR test from the last 72 hours when entering the country. Operators are footing the bill, which comes to about USD 100 per test. The high price of tests, and the need for several tests over the course of a single journey can lead to insurmountable costs for many operators.
This is not the first time uncoordinated COVID-19 measures have led to serious issues for transport operators in the region. In April and May last year, Costa Rica closed its borders to Nicaragua and Panama, stranding about 1,200 trucks and commercial drivers from several countries and causing supply chains to grind to a halt.
Whether on borders or testing requirements, governments need to take coordinated action to keep goods moving while keeping drivers and the communities they serve safe. Borders must be kept open to commercial vehicles to avoid shortages of essential goods. The cost of testing drivers should be borne by the government or by the importers or owners of the cargo, rather than adding extra costs for an industry that has already been hit hard by the pandemic.
Latin American governments should also follow the advice of UN Secretary-General António Guterres and implement existing trade facilitation tools, like the TIR system and the digital eTIR, to ensure the smooth flow of goods across their borders.
“Innovative tools such as UN eTIR/eCMR systems and other tools that allow to exchange electronic information without physical contact and facilitate the flow of goods across borders should be used,” said António Guterres.
“Unfortunately, we are seeing yet another example of how uncoordinated government measures can disrupt supply chains. IRU is continuing to call for greater coordination and wider implementation of the TIR system to allow road transport to keep goods moving and drive economic recovery from the pandemic,” said Umberto de Pretto, IRU Secretary General.