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Rural streets ‘like the Hume Highway’ as truckies navigate multiple road closures

Interstate truck drivers are being forced to travel hundreds of extra kilometres across Australia due to highway closures, but rural residents are concerned their roads can’t handle the pressure. 

Key points:Truck drivers are tackling long detours because of road closuresLocal residents say some drivers are going through rural roads and floodwater too fastMoulamein residents have been told to evacuate by Tuesday afternoonFlooding has closed thousands of kilometres of roads across eastern Australia, forcing drivers to take lengthy detours on a local roads not designed for heavy vehicles.

Residents in quiet rural towns are feeling the brunt as a result, with country serenity replaced by a more frequent rumble of tyres and compression brakes. 

More than 100 kilometres of the Sturt Highway, the main road linking Adelaide and Sydney, is closed. 

As a result, an endless stream of trucks is being pushed through previously quiet towns like Moulamein, north-east of Swan Hill on the New South Wales side of the Murray River. 

One farmer described the road through town as “like the Hume Highway”, prompting concerns about how the town’s infrastructure would cope. 

And making matters worse, the closures come as the town continues to battle with the impacts of rising floodwaters along the Murray River.

‘Our roads are disintegrating’China Gibson farms on Billabong Creek, north of Moulamein and adjacent to the road to Hay.

As a result, he’s had a front-row seat to the trucks streaming past his property. 

“We’ve seen an untold amount of interstate trucks and I’ve lost a lot of respect for truck drivers this week,” Mr Gibson said.

“Our roads are getting demolished and they still come through at 100 kilometres an hour.

“Someone is going to die if they keep coming through like that.

“They’re going off the roads when they pass each other because they’re not used to narrow roads so they’re wrecking the shoulders of the roads.”

Mr Gibson said most roads around Moulamein were now shut, and he was also worried about how he would move his stock safely.

“I’ve got to shift 3,000 lambs down the road today through a kilometre of floodwater,” he said.

“3,000 lambs is hard at the best of times, if these truckies haven’t stopped, we’re going to have to call on the red and blue to stop them.”

‘Average speeds well down’Ben Fenna is national operations manager with GTS Freight Management, a trucking company based in Mildura.

He said all GTS drivers were acting professionally as they navigated lengthy detours.

“Our average speeds of our vehicles are well down, and that’s by design to do our job safely,” he said.

Mr Fenna is constantly monitoring road closures to provide updated detours for the company’s drivers. (ABC Rural: Kellie Hollingworth)Mr Fenna said routes were being adjusted constantly to adapt to more road closures.

“Generally our trucks operate via the Newell Highway, however we’re now heading south of Balranald, across to Deniliquin, up into Wagga and on to Brisbane, adding about 400 kilometres travel time one way,” he said.

He said those detours came with significant costs.

“The additional distances travelled, we have to share some of those costs, we can’t wear it all, and the rest of the industry will be doing the same thing,” he said.

“From us, to a distribution centre right down to the supermarket shelf, everyone is disrupted.”

The Mildura-based transport company GTS Freight Management has been heavily affected by road closures.(Supplied: GTS Freight Management)Moulamein prepares to leaveTruck traffic through Moulamein has eased but only because the town is being cut off by rising floodwater.

Residents have been told evacuate by 2pm Tuesday, or face being isolated for days.

Mr Gibson said the record 1956 flood level had already been surpassed, and waters continued to rise.

“Our little town’s in trouble, we’ve got a lot of water heading our way and we’ve already hit record levels,” he said.

“There are a lot of farms gone or about to go and there’s so much water still coming toward us, so we don’t know what’s going to happen.”

While Moulamein is protected by levees built to the 1956 flood level, Mr Gibson said it wasn’t clear whether they would hold.

“The town could still very well go under, because we’re in unknown territory,” he said.

“This is the worst flooding that any white man has ever seen. It’s like a creeping cancer.

“If anyone believes in God, if you have got a god, please tell him or her to turn the rain off.”

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Posted 21 Nov 202221 Nov 2022Mon 21 Nov 2022 at 12:21am, updated 21 Nov 202221 Nov 2022Mon 21 Nov 2022 at 1:56am

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