QTA steps up as floodwaters take toll on transporters

QTA called in to help Queensland flood repair efforts, while transporters forced to standstill as rising waters cut road network

QTA steps up as floodwaters take toll on transporters
QTA steps up as floodwaters take toll on transporters
By Brad Gardner and Ruza Zivkusic | January 11, 2011

The trucking industry has been tasked with helping Queensland recover from damaging floods that have devastated the state and brought the freight task to a standstill.

Premier Anna Bligh has appointed Queensland Trucking Association CEO Peter Garske to a specialist committee overseeing the repair of the road network inundated by water in recent weeks.

Key transport routes such as the Bruce, Warrego, Carnarvon, Capricorn and Leichhardt highways have closed due to flooding, which has killed nine people in Toowoomba and the Lockyer Valley and swept away houses and vehicles in its wake.

As part of his role on the Roads and Transport Infrastructure Flood Recovery Committee, Garske will identify repair priorities. He will also provide input on the development of a flood recovery roadmap being overseen by Major General Mick Slater.

Garske will take part in a business advisory group to expedite economic recovery, including discussions on which parts of the freight task should be prioritised, weight restrictions on the road network and financial grants for businesses and employees.

Garske says companies have been forced to ground trucks because roads have been flooded.

"The freight task is just really not happening," he says.

"There is no way of knowing specifically just how many trucking businesses are held up on the roadside in Queensland. Many businesses have told me they are simply not moving."

Darren Nolan from Gatton-based Nolan’s Transport in the Lockyer Valley says employees were forced to sleep at the company’s depot last night because they were unable to return home due to flash flooding.

While some of the company’s interstate trucks are still on the road, Nolan says local work is at a standstill.

"It’s just complete devastation," he says of the rising floodwaters.

"We can’t get out Brisbane or Toowoomba way."

Nolan says the company is on high ground, which has protected staff and vehicles from the weather.

Although the Queensland Government says the full extent of the damage to roads will not be known until waters recede, Nolan says there already is "significant road damage".

"It’s not looking fabulous," he says.

Livestock Transporters Association of Queensland President Liz Schmidt says the floods have had a significant financial effect on trucking operators.

"Many of them have lost a lot of money in last year’s floods and road closures, much of their season didn’t happen because of that so this is a double whammy because of that," Schmidt says.

"The transporters can’t go where they need to go and even if the cattle are there to transport, the road restrictions don’t allow them to do it."

Schmidt likens the floods to a wait and see situation, saying the industry will not know the state of the roads or the weight restrictions that will be imposed until waters recede.

The flooding, which has been described as Queensland’s worst disaster, has prompted the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) to call for customers to be patient.

ATA Chairman David Simon says drivers are taking detours, spending an extra day to deliver the goods due to the bad weather.

"North and west of Queensland are struggling to get trucks; a lot of people are running by the coast rather than the highway," he says.

Main Roads Minister Craig Wallace says it is too early to determine the cost of the floods, but says the damage has already hit $1.5 billion.

"Frankly we just don’t know the final impact yet. Too much of the network is still underwater," he says.

Wallace says fixing the road network will be "an unprecedented long term repair job".

He has urged motorists to avoid all non-essential travel around the Toowoomba and Lockyer Valley regions, which were yesterday pummelled by flash flooding.

"Toowoomba and parts of the Lockyer Valley are a disaster zone," he says.

Premier Anna Bligh has warned of supply issues into central northern Queensland after routes were cut due to rising waters.

Trucking companies reliant on primary producers face an uncertain future, with Bligh saying farmers will take a long time to recover.

"I think you will see a very significant loss…Many of them may not be able to get back on their feet for another season," she says.

Authorities are anticipating severe flooding in Brisbane and surrounding suburbs in the coming days to surpass the devastation of the 1974 floods, which flooded more than 6500 homes and killed 14 people.

Floods have caused whole towns in parts of Queensland to be evacuated, while residents in some suburbs have been told to reach higher ground.

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