The Queensland Trucking Association (QTA) is lobbying for a special concession to run larger trucks on the Gillies Highway in the wake of the extensive damage done to the state’s freight network by ex-Cyclone Jasper.
With the Palmerston, the usual B-double access on to the Atherton Tablelands region, cut and “cut severly”, there is no question it’s going to be “months and months” to rectify, said QTA CEO Gary Mahon.
The only route available now for Tablelands’ operators is on the tricky Gillies Highway, which is usually restricted to single trailers, he said. A truck rolled on the highway earlier today.
UPDATE 2:00pm, 19/12/23:
Gillies Range Road is currently closed in both directions due to an overturned truck. A crane is en route to remove the vehicle. Please continue to check https://t.co/8JuY7RLlnA for updates on this situation. https://t.co/ERHOZSeK28
— Transport and Main Roads Queensland (@TMRQld) December 19, 2023
“As of yesterday we put a plan to TMR which they are considering and assessing for an alternative route to run Type-1’s, or two trailers, up to 36.5m. We’d expect quad-quads to be able to operate through there as well.
“That’s up Hervey’s Range, through Mount Garnet and into Mareeba that way. At the moment that is a B-double route but if you’re running anything more than a B-double you have to break it down at Mount Garnet.
“What we’re asking for is some concession to allow two full trailer operations from Mount Garnet up into, or through Mareeba, that way that will give us some seamless connection down to Townsville.”
“We’re hopeful that there might be some news by tomorrow (December 20) so operators can talk to their clients about significant changes in operations and what that’s going to mean.
“Your’e talking significant numbers. At a minimum during the season which is underway right now you are looking at more than 200 B-doubles a week coming off the Tablelands.
“At the moment it’s predominately tomatoes, bananas. You’ve got mango season coming on in the next couple of weeks and avos not long after that so it’s a pretty constant stream of B-double traffic coming off the Tablelands.
“A certain amount of road trains go down through the west down into the very southern markets. The greater majority come off in B-doubles but there is a proportion that heads off on road trains.
“If we get agreeance on the alternate that gives us some capacity to meet demand, but at much higher cost, and as always, that’s going to flow through to the consumer.”
Mahon said some operators are bringing product down in heavy rigids and repacking, wherever they might be, before heading down the Bruce Highway.
“But that’s not going to be a sustainable option. You’re talking substantial cost increases. If you just say 200 B-doubles coming the Palmerston every week, that’s 400 additional single trailer journeys on the Gillies.
“The Gillies Range will just become a congested carpark. There are just too many truck trips involved to be able to get the freight off.
“You’re talking the biggest production area in the state in terms of produce, and they’re large volumes heading into southern markets and/or exports.
“What we’re asking for is that we need to get line of sight quickly on a viable alternative so that our operators can reset how to manage operations and then will need to talk to their clients about what that means.”
Meanwhile, the QTA has also been advised that some operators may be following GPS directions and travelling Mareeba to Ravenshoe via Jensonville. However, this is not a B-double approved route.
The approved route for B-double configurations is Mareeba to Ravenshoe via Malanda and Marks Lane – see map below.
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