January 14, 2021

Introduction to the Australian road freight landscape

The road freight industry is integral to the Australian economy, with over 2 billion tonnes of freight moved each year.

Introduction to the Australian road freight landscape | Ofload

The size of Australia and the diverse locations of agriculture, mining, production, and population centres make road freight key to the transportation of goods.

Where freight moves

As a key part of the Australian consumer landscape, road freight has seen continual growth alongside increases in retail due to online shopping. Total freight volumes overall have quadrupled since the 1970s, predominantly due to significant road freight growth and an increase in mining freight rail volumes.

Data sourced from BITRE’s Freightline 1

While rail carries a higher volume of overall freight, road transport is the main mode of transportation for the majority of commodities produced and consumed in Australia. Additionally, road freight in capital cities represents one fifth of all freight movements, with non-capital urban area transport accounting for a further 10%. This is due to the retail and manufacturing presence in cities and urban areas.

What’s being moved

Australian road freight is diverse, encompassing bulk export commodities (iron ore, coal, grains), machinery, manufactured goods, and finished products for household consumption. This is reflected in Australia’s five major freight categories:

  1. Commodities
  2. Food product and live animals
  3. Crude materials
  4. Manufactured goods
  5. Fuels, lubricants and related materials
Data sourced from 2014 ABS Report

Who’s moving it

Across the Australian freight industry there are around 50,000 trucking companies. Small carriers dominate the make-up of the industry, with about 98% of all carriers having fewer than 20 employees. These small companies are highly efficient and responsible for 86% of annual road freight revenue.

Over 95% of Australia’s road freight is carried in heavy vehicles. B-double trailers account for the majority of movements, carrying 40% of total road freight. Despite their contribution to freight, freight vehicles are responsible for less than 10% of total road use.

Future projections

Australia’s freight volume is projected to continue growing over the next 20 years, with an expected 80% growth of total domestic freight between 2010 and 2030. This is driven by GDP and domestic population growth, and an increase in demand for Australian commodities from Asia.

The industry will, however, face challenges to this growth from a range of local and global factors. Changing climate conditions will impact the volume and pattern of freight, along with infrastructure priorities. Additionally, the push for road freight to meet climate targets will be a key transition for a more sustainable industry. The volatility of oil prices also presents short and long term risks for business and energy sourcing. Despite this, the necessity of road freight to all aspects of the Australian economy will ensure that these challenges will be met.

Ofload is a digital freight platform that aims to empower the long tail of small carriers to access large shipper contracts through technology. Our focus is eliminating waste across all aspects of the freight industry through prioritising transparency and efficiency.

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