The release of the 2019 Infrastructure Australia Audit, called ‘An Assessment of Australia’s Future Infrastructure Needs’ has identified increasing challenges for road freight, including agricultural, regional, urban and non-bulk freight as well as poor planning and congestion, and poor maintenance and limited capacity in regional areas.
According to the report released by Infrastructure Australia, the country’s freight task is expected to continue to grow, by another 26 per cent between 2016 and 2026.
“Freight continues to grow quickly, congestion on key urban freight routes remains, inconsistent regulation hinders efficiency and key regional bottlenecks still exist for agricultural supply chains,” says the report. “There has been some progress on key reforms, but they remain incomplete. In 2011 Australian governments agreed to establish a national system of freight regulation, with the establishment of national regulators and progressive transition away from state laws.
“Progress has also been made with heavy vehicle regulation, with jurisdictions progressively transitioning to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator. However progress is slow, and heavy vehicle regulations remain inconsistent and difficult for industry to understand.”
In its reaction to the report, the Australian Trucking Association reckons Governments have allowed significant challenges to accumulate, which are now holding back the economy.
“Australia needs efficient and productive freight and supply chains in order to minimise costs for businesses and consumers, enable economic growth and improve the quality and cost of living for all Australians,” said Geoff Crouch, ATA Chair. “The Infrastructure Australia Audit found that supply chain costs account for around 10 per cent of the cost of a final product – a cost which is ultimately borne by consumers.
“Our current truck laws are an amalgamation of highly prescriptive laws that vary between jurisdictions. It is critical the current review of the national truck laws produces real change. Meanwhile, although high productivity freight vehicles have been proven to lower costs, improve safety and reduce emissions, their uptake has been discouraged by the time consuming and costly access permit decision making process.
“There is a wealth of untapped productivity potential that will not be realised unless governments consult with industry and take serious action.”
On a positive note the IA report contends the impact of technology is likely to grow in the freight sector, with automation potentially reducing freight costs into the future.
However it also points out that in our cities, which are key centres of demand, supply and the processing of high value and containerised freight, there are bottlenecks in our national supply chains, limiting access to key markets for exporters and increasing costs for consumers. Congestion on key routes, land-use planning that doesn’t consider freight and regulatory constraints on our gateways are common.
Agricultural supply chains are also said to suffer from constraints. Local infrastructure is often poorly maintained and lacks capacity. Infrastructure constraints are coupled with inefficient regulation in our regions, where freight operators often cross-jurisdictional boundaries and have to deal with a myriad of access permits.
“Unless we take concrete action to deal with challenges such as urban congestion, bottlenecks in regional supply chains and reform inconsistent and outdated regulatory regimes, the performance of our freight networks will suffer and Australian consumers will pay the price,” said Kirk Coningham, Australian Logistics Council CEO.
“Regulatory reform that delivers greater cross-jurisdictional consistency in access arrangements, operational matters and safety is essential to reducing delays in freight movement for customers and reducing costs for freight logistics operators, across all modes of freight transport.”