Flooding impacts transport and logistics sector

Jason Mann, SCLAA Director in Queensland, reflects on the impact of the recent floods and their ramifications for transport and logistics in South East Queensland and Northern New South Wales. 

As this article goes to print, we are hopeful the heart-breaking human impacts of the recent floods are slowly correcting themselves, and that our ability to manoeuvre throughout road and rail networks is back to normal. 

Beginning late February, a low-pressure system developed in the Wide Bay area of QLD and slowly moved south along the coast, pummelling unprecedented rainfall on all within its path. As the extensive images illustrated at the time, the destruction looked nothing short of a war zone where at its peak a total of 750 roads and a major rail arterial were closed, severely affecting the ability to distribute freight. This brought another level of complexity to a supply chain that was already at saturation point (pardon the pun) and directly affecting the wider community at a time where immediacy of supply was critical. The stories of devastation were harrowing.

With so many major roads closed, complications were experienced across all modes of transport in terms of simply positioning goods for distribution.  Air freighter services were reduced, as were rail services, and road networks were crippled. 

Goods moving north were delayed for days after the Bruce Highway was closed in multiple areas. Linehaul operators were only loading to accessible locations able to be penetrated, in many instances advising customers to withhold goods and ceasing pick-ups. The Sunshine Coast saw higher levels of rainfall than most with some operators halting operations for over a week. 

Freight moving south to NNSW was greatly affected with road stoppages at Chinderah, just south of Tweed, where the M1 became a car park for semi-trailers stretching kilometres to the north. These closures splintered across Northern Rivers and North Coast communities, gridlocking many other areas that feed into them. The town of Lismore was one of the worst hit, including a tragic story of a major NNSW distribution company who lost everything, including multiple prime movers and other essential equipment and stock. 

Luckily, goods moving south to Sydney had the option to route via the New England and Newell Highways, increasing both transit times and cost to the consumer. Given these conditions, a negative by-product was a reluctance to send equipment north to service back loads ex Brisbane due to the delays from bottle necks they had already experienced. The wheels needed to keep turning.

The closing of the flood affected North/South rail link between Brisbane and Grafton at Kyogle meant more freight was directed to the road network, again bringing capacity issues to existing operators. In addition, the closing of a major rail hub west of Brisbane for a week also saw huge backlogs of freight which took considerable time to clear. 

Local delivery fleets, most operating at 50 per cent of staffing levels, were unable to get into affected areas. The daily rhythm of distributing goods into these communities stalled, critically affecting stock levels, particularly for shorter shelf-life food and produce products at a time when it was needed most.  

COVID 19, Bushfires, Floods crippling road and rail ‚Äď it seems like one thing after another continues to severely impact Australia‚Äôs ability to position goods to its consumers. If there was ever a time where the focus and awareness of Supply Chain activity and its importance on our survival needs to be at its highest, it is now. ¬†

As always, its resilience, driven by the hard-working fraternities campaigning within it, has ensured we have gotten things moving again.

To connect with Jason, visit his LinkedIn page by clicking here. 

For more information on SCLAA, click here.

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