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Bad weather may hamper trucking in northern Queensland

Coming back for more: unsatisfied with having drenched the very far northern tip of Australia, ex-Tropical Cyclone Penny has done a U-Turn in the Coral Sea and is heading back to Queensland. Trucking operations are likely to be hampered by rain, strong winds and local flooding. (Graphic: Bureau of Meteorology and MetEye).

Australia’s cyclone season continues to hamper trucking in the tropical parts of the country.

Truck operators are carefully eyeing the forecast path of ex-Tropical Cyclone Penny, which is due to make landfall shortly. It was about 190km off the coast at close of business today. It is now moving toward the Australian coast at about 18km an hour. Although Penny is an ex-cyclone, there is a 20% to 30% chance that it could re-intensify back to cyclone status, the national weather forecaster has stated.

Strong wind warnings are in effect along the north-eastern Australian coast for areas around Townsville, Mackay and Capricornia. Widespread flood warnings are in effect for coastal catchments between Gladstone and Cape Tribulation, and these warnings extend inland too.

A rise in river volumes may happen as there has already been heavy rainfall and the river catchment areas are said to be saturated. Future heavy rainfall could lead to quick or flash-flooding.

Live traffic maps show that, right now, there are instances in the more northerly parts of Queensland of road closures owing to floods.

Rachel Purdy of NQ Freighters gave some insight as to how trucking operations might be affected around Queensland, especially along the coast.

Ms Purdy confirmed that roads can be closed owing to rainfall and this can slow trucking operations. “It can cause delay if you are waiting for water to recede,” she commented, adding that truck operators “generally don’t get paid extra to send trucks around floodwater”. She added that floods can be particularly disruptive to the transport of fresh produce and refrigerated cargoes.

Ms Purdy expects that ex-TC Penny will mostly affect transport along the east coast and she pointed to the prospect that the big swollen rivers may flood causing a blockage of roads.

Drivers can also be stranded by severe weather events as companies will not send drivers into cyclone-affected or other unsafe areas. Rainfall can also be a hazard.

“The boys will just pull over if the rain is so bad that there is a lack of visibility,” she commented. But, she added, sometimes heavy truck drivers cannot just pull over to the side of the road if the conditions are particularly adverse as the trucks may slide.

However, she said, sometimes, the floods don’t appear as forecast. This can lead to some pointed comments. Consignees may be left waiting for their goods if trucks have taken what, appears to recipients of goods, a cautious approach.

“They say, ‘why aren’t you moving?’ and we say we’re expecting floods. And they say, ‘it’s not flooding now!’ So it can be a bit of a case of wait-and-see,” she told FreightWaves. “We need the trucks to get through.”

After a cyclone, or other similar adverse weather event, there can be a big influx of requests to move herbicides around the state. It’s a simple formula: more rain means more weeds means more demand from farmers for weed-control. And there’s often a backlog of requests to move equipment such as power generators and other such plant to help with the clean-up immediately after the event.

“So it’s got its good points too,” Ms Purdy says.

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Jim Wilson, Australia Correspondent

Sydney-based journalist and photojournalist, Jim Wilson, is the Australia Correspondent for FreightWaves. Since beginning his journalism career in 2000, Jim has primarily worked as a business reporter, editor, and manager for maritime publications in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Australia. He has won several awards for logistics-related journalism and has had photography published in the global maritime press. Jim has also run publications focused on human resources management, workplace health and safety, venture capital, and law. He holds a degree in law and legal practice.
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