Leveraging data to improve national freight efficiency

National Freight Data Hub Supply Chain Strategy

The Federal Government has outlined its vision for growing the productivity of Australia’s freight networks by more efficiently collecting and analysing freight data.

The progress report on the development of the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy Delivering on Freight details the Federal Government’s commitment to the freight sector, including:

  • A National Freight Data Hub
  • A National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy
  • Road infrastructure investments
  • A National Heavy Vehicle Regulator

The paper was released on 6 April, in tandem with a report from the iMOVE Cooperative Research Centre, which analyses the freight data needs of industry and government and suggests how improving ways of collecting relevant data could improve freight sector planning and operations.

These documents are the latest step in a journey towards greater freight efficiency.

An industry-led Inquiry into National Freight and Supply Chain Priorities was commissioned in March 2017 to help better position Australia to meet its future freight productivity challenges.

In May 2018, the COAG Infrastructure and Transport Ministerial Council committed to developing a 20-year National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy which will form the basis of an integrated approach to improving the connectivity of all freight modes and supply chains.

It is hoped that implementation of the strategy by industry and all three tiers of Government from 2019 will enhance the competitiveness of all Australia’s regions in domestic and global markets and help achieve truly liveable, efficient and affordable cities and regional centres.

The Federal Government allocated $8.5 million in its 2019-20 Budget to settle the design of a National Freight Data Hub, which aims to help business and governments plan and make better operational and investment decisions.

Federal Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, Michael McCormack, said the establishment of the Hub was a response to calls from the industry.

“We know better data makes better decisions and that means jobs and opportunities can flow, especially in the regions,” Mr McCormack said.

National Freight Supply Chain Strategy

The Federal Government plans to maximise the efficiency of Australia’s freight system without compromising workers’ safety.

The Federal Government, together with industry and the state, territory and local governments, is also working on developing a National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy to make sure Australia can meet that growing task and keep freight moving efficiently.

“Freight volumes are expected to double and the nature of the freight task is changing, yet there is more to do to continue to grow freight productivity,” Mr McCormack said.

“A 20-year vision is needed for coordinating investment, regulation, and planning across all modes—road, rail, air and maritime—to drive real improvements to Australia’s freight productivity.”

Third, the Government plans to improve Australia’s road freight network through a number of investments, such as the $4.5 billion Roads of Strategic Importance initiative.

Federal Assistant Minister for Roads and Transport, Scott Buchholz, said Delivering on Freight showcases the Government’s other commitments.

“Our commitment to the National Action Plan includes investing to remove pinch points in key freight corridors, improving heavy vehicle access to local roads and improving the availability and ways we can share freight data,” Mr Buchholz said.

The Government is also contributing $8 million for the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator to streamline the approval process for road access by heavy vehicles.

The investment complements the Federal Government’s agreement with State and Territory Ministers to implement twelve recommendations from the review of Oversize Overmass vehicle access arrangements, making it easier to do business without compromising safety.

Mr Buchholz said the NHVR is seeking agreement from councils and road managers on the new draft National Class 1 Agricultural Vehicle and Combination Notice, which will harmonise state-based notices into a single national notice and update standards.

“This is just another sensible reform to make life easier for farmers, enabling them to move the majority of their equipment between farms and ensuring they can do business more efficiently,” Mr Buchholz said.

Welcome progress, but much more to be done

The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) says the progress report on the development of the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy released by the Federal Government demonstrates how important it is to finalise the strategy as soon as possible.

“To date, there has been excellent cooperation from governments at all levels and of all political complexions in working cooperatively to make sure that the strategy will address industry’s priorities,” ALC CEO Kirk Coningham said.

“Australia’s freight task is projected to double in the years to 2030 as our population grows and international demand for Australia products increases, which will place considerable pressure on our freight transport infrastructure and networks.”

“The finalisation and implementation of an effective strategy is necessary to ensure this increased demand can be met in a way that allows freight to move through the network efficiently and safely.”

“It was enormously encouraging for the freight logistics industry to recently obtain a bipartisan commitment to finalise and implement the strategy as soon as possible, because the urgency of the task demands a collaborative national approach.”

“ALC also welcomes today’s release of a report by our strategic partner, iMove CRC, which examines opportunities to enhance the efficiency of our supply chain, boost productivity and deliver better outcomes for businesses and consumers though more sophisticated use of freight data.”

“Throughout the development of the strategy, industry has continually emphasised the need to improve the quality and quantity of available data regarding the operation of our supply chains. Better data allows industry to more effectively monitor and measure performance and permits better decision-making around investments in equipment and infrastructure.”

“The iMove report has also shown that much freight data that is currently available is of limited use in analysis, because information is not collated in standardised formats, levels of granularity or frequency.”

“This will be an important challenge for the strategy to overcome. ALC welcomes the investment of $8.5 million in this week’s Federal Budget to establish a National Freight Data Hub and allow a pilot study that permits industry to access freight data in real time. This is a crucial first step, which governments and industry can work in partnership to build on.”

Read the Federal Government’s progress report Delivering on Freight, here.

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