COVID control measures ensnarl trucking, key supply lines

In some instances, truck drivers have been sealed inside their cabins, their doors and windows taped over with plastic, leaving them locked inside their vehicles.

“I was stuck in my truck for almost 24 hours last weekend,” said one driver, surnamed Song, who didn’t want to give his full name. “Like every other exhausted trucker who’s helping out the supply shortage, I need to eat, drink, pee. They sealed our truck windows at almost every check point.”

That’s left long queues of trucks parked on highways with nowhere to go or clogging the few service centers areas that remain open, state broadcaster CCTV reported.

Truckers were facing onerous conditions even before the lockdowns were implemented, with more than 37 percent of drivers working more than 12 hours on average a day, according to a June 2021 report from the China Federation of Logistics & Purchasing.

Many truckers bristle at the restrictions, seeing themselves as essential workers during the pandemic.

“Delivering materials to build the makeshift hospitals, vegetables and necessity supplies — which of these could be done without us truck drivers?” said one trucker in a video widely circulated on social media.

The harsh containment measures have paralyzed transportation across the Yangtze Delta region. That includes the world’s largest port of Shanghai, where inefficient COVID testing reduced the number of truck drivers with valid certificates while other drivers stayed away to avoid mandatory quarantines, according to a Caixin report late last month.

The trucking of base metals such as copper and zinc in and out of warehouses in Shanghai, including those in the duty-free bonded zones, has largely ground to a halt since the start of this month, according to traders and logistic managers.

Nick Bartlett, director of CBIP Logistics in Hong Kong, said efforts to divert export cargo from Shanghai to ports such as Ningbo were running into issues. “We’ve got hauliers that have said they are not sure if the highways are going to be open because they might impose restrictions,” he said. “They are worried.”

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