Sea of heartbreak

January 2011 will long be remembered by trucking people with water becoming the enemy against an industry that had already suffered due to heavy rains and flooding in the north of the state, affecting delivery of all forms of freight.

In a horror three days, the major trucking precinct of Rocklea was well under water with, in some places, premises flooded to the rooftops leaving equipment, freight consignments and people’s livelihoods in its wake until the waters subsided.

Premises on either side of the Ipswich Motorway were completely underwater and transport depots, sales outlets and other transport related businesses were affected on a huge scale.

On Monday, January 10, people were made aware that the wall of water was on its way. This was recognised as being an extremely serious threat to business in the area and the scramble began to move whatever possible to higher ground. The following day waters were already lapping at some premises and the massive job of relocating equipment continued at a frenetic pace, but it was soon evident time was running short as water rose to levels not seen since the major flood experienced back in 1974.

Water rose extremely rapidly leaving many unable to do much to save their businesses, with the inland sea reaching levels as high as three storeys in some places, completely submerging many trucking company buildings. Transport people report the rise in water levels was so swift you could see buildings disappear.

Rocklea Markets began to go under water on the Tuesday and was fully submerged at the flood peak. The fruit and vegetable supply chain link was broken until a massive cleanup operation saw the complex resume business on January 17.

Supplies of fruit and veg, bread and milk to supermarkets, shops and restaurants, was severely interrupted and consumers faced shortages of many essential items. It soon became a priority to have major roads opened as soon as possible and essential businesses working again, including road transport to address the situation.

One of the biggest problems in getting things back to normal is a lack of power in so many suburbs, and Rocklea was one of the hardest hit. Following cleanup, all electrical wiring in all businesses must be checked and passed by authorities, however all firms on the grid must be cleared before power supply can be switched on.

While Brisbane was in the throes of beating the flood menace, other areas of the state were in similar circumstances including the far north where supplies too were in short supply. Markets in southern states responded by loading trucks for the north, but it was not an easy road to travel due to road closures. A convoy of trucks used back roads to skirt flooding where possible and with highways closed in so many locations it meant long journeys for transport operators. Cities such as Cairns and Rockhampton were difficult to service but trucking overcame obstacles to ensure goods met the needs of those regions.

Northern New South Wales was also consumed by flooding, particularly around the Grafton region, with the Pacific Highway closed in a number of places. At one stage the line-up of trucks at Halfway Creek, between Coffs Harbour and Grafton, numbered hundreds of single trailers and B-Double combinations waiting for water levels to recede.

Road diversions around flooded areas were the cause of considerable concern for operators and trip schedules were severely interrupted during the event. This too was experienced in western New South Wales where flooding has been a major problem over a period of weeks.

Main freight routes from the south into Brisbane became a nightmare as not only the coast road was closed but Cunninghams Gap, near Warwick, and the Toowoomba Range were also blocked to vehicles.

Continual assessment of the situation in all affected areas saw truck movements structured around road openings, however it was a situation of doing what was possible, often within limited time windows.

If that wasn’t enough western Victoria then became flood affected and again road transport was thrown into chaos. Towns became isolated, residents evacuated and supplies became short in those regions.

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