Supermarket giant Woolworths has reported that online demand for its ACT delivery services has spiked by 50 per cent during August and says it is working to add more capacity, admitting the situation is frustrating for customers.
Demand for specific delivery times has pushed back same day grocery deliveries, with customers reporting they had to go on a wait list.
It has a Priority Assist list for vulnerable customers, and the company is urging people in those situations to take advantage of this service.
"Delivery windows remain available to the broader community later in the week, but are not available on the usual same or next day basis due to the higher than usual demand," the company said in a statement.
"We know this is frustrating and we're working hard behind the scenes to add new capacity so we can serve even more customers online, with additional trucks coming into the ACT and extra hours rostered for our online teams.
"We encourage customers to consider using pick up, including our contactless direct to boot service, which is offered from our Belconnen, Canberra Airport and Dunlop stores."
Customers who round up their grocery bill at Woolworths to the nearest dollar, on a minimum spend of $30, will have that extra money donated to Foodbank, which is delivering emergency food and supplies to struggling communities during the pandemic.
Coles would not provide any data but thanked customers for their patience as it experienced "a high level of demand". On Wednesday the Coles Group reported a net after-tax profit of just over $1 billion for 2020-21, on sales of $38.5 billion.
Wodonga-based trucking and logistics company Ron Finemore Transport which supplies to Canberra's Woolworths and Aldi stores has seen spikes of between 20 to 40 per cent across various regions as lockdowns were announced.
Resupply schedules have been juggled to keep pace with the depletion on supermarket shelves as the trucking industry rolls down near-empty highways across NSW and the ACT, filled with groceries, produce and alcohol.
The managing director of Finemore, Mark Parry, said the logistics supply chain required to keep pace with changing conditions has again been challenging, with border arrangements this time more complex and challenging to navigate than during the national lockdown last year.
"A driver based in Victoria who works out of our distribution centre there and is in and out of Canberra and coming back into Victoria has to have a Covid test every three days," he said.
"There are various places along the Hume [highway] to try and assist drivers avoid the long public delay; any delay in those positions goes against their log book and it makes it difficult for them.
"We are providing a service three days a week for drivers to be tested in Wodonga, and in other sites where that's more difficult, we've got arrangements where a driver can self-test and send it off to pathology."
He said that the rules changed constantly across the jurisdictions, which made logistics even more difficult.
"Last Monday the Queensland government said that all truck drivers crossing the border had to have at least one vaccination. That was rescinded on Tuesday but they kept the option open to reintroduce it at any time," he said.
More than 55 per cent of the Finemore drivers were vaccinated, and there is an internal program actively encouraging a faster take-up in case border conditions change.
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The company's 270-strong fleet of interstate B-double semi-trailers, equipped with the latest fatigue detection devices, was busier than ever.
"The overall uplift [in deliveries] is well into double figures generally," Mr Parry said.
"And these uplifts are area and circumstance-specific, with spikes in demand that we have to cover quickly.
"What I mean by that is if you think about the Central West and Dubbo going into lockdown, that triggered panic buying.
"It's the same with the ACT. When the ACT was talking about a lockdown [on Friday] , it's probably the first major lockdown you've had since Covid first hit last year and immediately there was panic buying.
"So you get huge uplifts and the longer the lockdown goes, the more people are eating at home and then reflects through into higher food, produce and alcohol demand."
Mr Parry described his driver cohort as "a pretty resilient bunch" accustomed to long hours on the road but they, too are, feeling the effects of being shut off from friends and family.
"We have a range of mechanisms in place to support them [the drivers] and keep them safe but, yes, it's a stressful time for everyone," he said.
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