ABS stats show growing, profitable road transport sector

By: Jason Whittaker


Despite a number of capacity constraints, the road transport industry continues to drive Australia’s economy, according to the 2008 Yearbook

Despite a number of capacity constraints, the road transport industry continues to drive Australia’s economy, according to the 2008 Yearbook released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

Transport gross value added (GVA) – which is used to measure gross domestic product (GDP) – in the transport and storage industry grew by 2.6 percent between 2004-05 and 2005-06.

Road transport recorded a 5.5 percent increase in GVA. The increase is second only to air and space transport, which contributed 5.6 percent. Rail, pipeline and other transport grew 1.9 percent.

In what may be reflective of the burgeoning freight task, the transport and storage industry’s production more than doubled between 1987-88 and 2005-06.

The growth in production is being met by greater profit margins, with ABS figures indicating the transport industry continues to surge in light of woeful infrastructure and supply chain bottlenecks.

"The profit margin for the industry was 7.9 percent in 2004-05, compared with 4.5 percent in 2003-04, and 80 percent of businesses made a profit in 2004-05 while 20 percent made a loss," the Yearbook states.

Road transport continued to contribute significantly in keeping the unemployment rate low, hiring 11,300 more people between 2005-06 and 2006-07. This accounted for a 5.2 percent increase over the last year which reduced the impact of a decrease in employment in the rail transport and air and space transport sectors.

According to the ABS, employment in rail dropped by 11 percent to 35,300 staff, while the air and space transport sector fell to 49,900 people, a drop of 5.5 percent.

The Yearbook also highlighted the popularity of older trucks in the road freight industry. According to the figures, light rigid trucks over 15 years old are being used, while heavy rigid trucks up to 18 years old continue to make up a considerable chunk of the freight task across a number of states.

However, articulated trucks are changed on a regular basis with ABS statistics showing the oldest fleet being 13 years in the Northern Territory.

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