Reducing Road Congestion for Trucks

Research has shown collaborative freight systems could achieve a cost saving in excess of 25 per cent for freight operators. Software and programming researchers at Melbourne’s Monash University have been analysing a unique method of optimising city road networks through a system of shared delivery transfer stations for collaborating freight organisations.

The main supplier of trucks to this segment of road transport, Isuzu, has been following the progress of this research, as it could benefit its customers and is likely to attract government attention.

“With federal funding for major road projects becoming restricted to certain strategic initiatives, alongside requests for State Governments to engage in ‘asset recycling’ and privately funded user-pays approaches, the research is especially timely,” said Phil Taylor, Isuzu Australia Director and COO.

Monash University’s Dr Richard Kelly, has prepared a thesis on this system, and believes it would not only improve the productivity of Australia’s freight industry and reduce escalating congestion on our roads, but also place cities such as Melbourne and Sydney in an ideal position to seize emerging and lucrative trade opportunities with China and Southeast Asia.

“The Australian city gridlock experience has already been compared to London, Los Angeles and New York,” said Taylor. “This is a major concern for governments, as apart from restricting the movement of goods, the associated idling of vehicles and the excess fuel consumed translates into disproportionately high levels of pollution around our largest cities.

“Researchers have also been reminding governments that the construction of new road infrastructure, on its own, will not spontaneously remove gridlock. This is due to continual expansion of outer suburbs, coupled with driver behaviour, which creates preferences for certain city routes that are often far from ideal.”

These developments have compounded the difficulties facing fleet managers who are working to identify the least congested roadways and delivery routes.

Monash researchers are working towards a ‘win-win’ outcome for both government and private freight organisations by addressing multiple issues of congestion and pollution, as well as providing a reduction in the storage, vehicle and fuel costs for collaborating freight companies.

To that end, wireless communication like those used in Isuzu’s Telematics systems can provide immediate truck specific traffic and route details for fleets. This complements the need for broader methods of boosting the overall productivity of the Australian freight industry.

Dr Kelly’s ‘Two-Echelon Pickup and Delivery Problem with Transfers for Collaborative Logistics’ optimisation programme has successfully optimised both the selection of transfer depots and the precise points for trunking, or transferring goods between specific pick-up and delivery points, on multiple freight networks.

In the past, programming, which could be scaled up to measure problems involving the sharing of freight resources, focussed on either the placement of shared depots, or on improving the actual vehicle routes.

“New optimisation programming techniques have emerged which assists us in moving closer towards less predictable real-life transport scenarios,” said Kelly. “By swapping deliveries at shared depots, the overall efficiency of each scenario could immediately be improved.”