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|Freight industry on road to record hauls|
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More than a quarter of a million Australians work in the road freight industry. It's a huge business and will become a lot bigger.
That's the picture in a report released recently by the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics.
Road Freight Estimates and Forecasts in Australia reaffirms the basic mantra we've been hearing for many years - that the amount of freight in this country will almost double within a couple of decades.
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"The global financial crisis will only dampen road freight growth slightly and for a limited time," the report says. "Over the longer term, there will be substantial growth.
"The total national road freight task in 2030 is expected to be 1.8 times its 2008 level."
The task grew from just 27 billion tonne-kilometres (the weight carried multiplied by distance) in 1972 to 180 billion in 2007 . The report forecasts it will reach a whopping 340 billion tonne-kilometres by 2030.
This represents growth of almost 3 per cent a year, in line with expected economic expansion and much faster than the forecast rise in population.
It assumes no radical changes in either future economic conditions or competition from rail and coastal shipping.
The sector breakdown is: interstate road freight (e.g. Sydney to Melbourne) to grow 2.3 times by 2030; capital city freight to grow 1.7 times; and rest of state 1.4 times. The numbers differ for each state and territory (e.g. NSW, Victoria and South Australia have much higher proportions of interstate freight than Western Australia and Queensland).
The BITRE report says 80 per cent of road freight is transported less than 100 kilometres. Another interesting fact is that Australia has the lowest number of people per kilometre of road in the developed world and is the most intensive user of road freight per person.
The report notes that a solution to freight growth, favoured by industry, is to increase vehicle lengths and weights but says: "Such change has the potential to increase road damage and have adverse road safety impacts.
"There are also potential environmental consequences of increased truck movements - in terms of increased road noise in urban areas, increased air pollution in all capital cities and the potential increase in greenhouse emissions."
The report is heavy on complex statistical modelling. Hopefully, it's more relevant than the photo at the top of it - of an American truck on an American highway.
"It's a good piece of macro forecasting based on gross domestic product per head of population," says a freight consultant, Associate Professor Kim Hassall. He agrees with the Australian Trucking Association's basic response to the report - that bigger truck combinations are needed on selected city and country routes.
"We need the B-triples between appropriate points on the Hume Highway now," Hassall says.
He says implicit in the BITRE's report is a disappointing picture for rail in growing its market share on major corridors such as Sydney-Melbourne, despite more more than $1 billion being spent on upgrading the lines between the two cities in recent years.
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