Contributing around 10% of Australia’s GDP, freight continues to be a massive contributor to the national economy. In fact, according to the National Freight & Supply Chain Strategy released in August 2019, Australian infrastructure operators, transport companies and logistics experts deliver over 4 billion tonnes of goods every year. That equates to a staggering 163 tonnes of freight for every person and, with Australia’s national freight task forecast to increase by around 35% between 2018 and 2040, the number is still growing.

Yet while Australia’s freight task grows, freight productivity has stagnated. In 2018 the World Bank’s Logistics Performance Index ranked Australia at a decidedly mediocre 18th on the global stage. The reasons for this are varied and complex. But one contributing factor which has the transport and logistics sector united in fierce (and rare) agreement, is the lack of accurate and up-to-date performance data available to decision makers.

Put simply, how can the industry design better ways to boost future freight performance unless it has access to reliable and meaningful data on how the current systems are performing?

While talked about for many years, the formal push for superior freight data really gained momentum in 2017/18 when it was one of the key findings from the industry-led Inquiry into National Freight and Supply Chain Priorities. Shortly afterwards, the Australian Government committed $8.5 million for the design of a National Freight Data Hub, together with a real-time freight data exchange pilot program.

The possibilities are exciting and, in theory at least, the new Data Hub could become a vital step towards shaping a more efficient and data-empowered freight and logistics future.

Real-time track and trace technology will help everyone. It allows operators to better monitor freight movements and identify ways to boost point-to-point efficiency. But it also allows customers to know with greater confidence than ever before where their goods and equipment are at any given time, and when it’s likely to arrive.

The way we see things, it’s all about creating measurable industry benchmarks and indicators. Then, armed with this essential knowledge, finding ways to do even better – both within our own business, but also within the industry as a whole. That way we all benefit.

Yes, it’s early days and there are still many challenges to be worked through. For example, what data sets should be incorporated into the Hub? How will the actual platform be built and function? How will cyber security be managed to ensure commercial confidentiality is protected? Who will oversee the Hub’s use? How will changes be made?

All of these issues, and more, are likely to be raised in the upcoming Discussion Paper to be handed down by the Department of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development in 2020.

What’s your view on the National Freight Data Hub? Will it be the Industry game changer many are saying? Please share your thoughts and feedback via Linkedin.

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