Ex-truckies are being asked to come out of retirement or do part-time work, if permanent drivers catch Omicron.
The trucking industry is calling for all hands to the pump as New Zealand faces an indefinite length of time in the red setting of the traffic light system, which will strain the supply chain, Ia Ara Aotearoa Transporting New Zealand chief executive Nick Leggett said.
"We know there are New Zealanders out there with a Class 2, 4 or 5 licence, suitable for a heavy vehicle, who are not working as truck drivers.
"We are asking them to consider making themselves available to drive a truck in the weeks and months ahead as we face the wave of Omicron."
The effects of Omicron were already being experienced by the industry overseas, Leggett said.
"Looking across the Tasman to Australia and further afield to the United States and the United Kingdom, we know that Omicron can decimate the driver workforce, through both drivers getting the virus and/or having to isolate because they have been exposed to it."
New Zealand was already experiencing the anticipation of this disruption to the supply chain through people panic-buying goods and stockpiling, Leggett said.
Transporting New Zealand was appealing to people who had a licence and relevant experience to get in touch, "so we can link you with transport companies in your area to try and fill some of the gaps if and when the supply chain flow becomes critical," he said.
The road freight transport industry employs 32,868 people (2 per cent of the workforce), has a gross annual turnover of $6 billion, and transports 93 per cent of the total tonnes of freight moved in New Zealand.
The industry was already short on drivers before Covid-19 and border closures and labour pressures had intensified the situation, Leggett said.
"It is estimated that one in four transport companies have vehicles parked up due to driver shortage. Omicron is likely to compound that issue."
Transporting New Zealand will be working with the Government to ensure anyone on Jobseeker who met the appropriate licence requirements could be made aware they may be needed, Leggett said.
It was vital that food and medical supplies continued to move at this time, he said.
"Someone putting their hand up for a shift could help ensure the deliveries keep rolling.
"We might only be talking about a shift or two, but every license holder who is willing and able to lend a hand will help keep New Zealand's supply chain running."
Any drivers willing to work through this time can register their interest to Transporting New Zealand via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
They will be subject to the normal screening and there are no guarantees of work.