We can't stand still on freight productivity: Woolworths

Woolworths warns industry can’t do nothing on freight productivity and wants long-term planning to develop strategies

By Ruza Zivkusic | September 14, 2011

One of the country’s largest retailers says the transport industry cannot stand still on freight productivity and has called for a long-term planning approach to be put in place.

Woolworths transport strategy manager Ben Newton says freight productivity hinges on the effectiveness of infrastructure and regulations and wants government to go beyond proposals outlined in a draft national land freight strategy released earlier this year.

"The national land freight strategy is only a tool. It is how we use the tool and work together that is important. The strategy provides visibility for long term planning and we would encourage even longer term planning for the next 30 to 50 years," Newton says.

"Freight productivity needs to continue to improve, we need a plan."

With more than 3100 outlets across Australia, Newton says the retailer has 100,000 trucks transporting 80 million of cartons and travelling around 13 million km each month.

"Australia’s level of productivity is critical to the economy; we cannot afford to do nothing," he says.

He made the comments at the recent Freight Week event in Melbourne, where he also took aim at local government restrictions on transport operations.

"One of the challenges for us is the time of the day when we are forced to be on the road when traffic is high. Council curfews are also a problem which affects the vehicle size and time of delivery. There was one example where we delivered with 24-pallet vehicles and a council forced us to go back to 10-pallet vehicles," Newton says.

"That means we are using two trucks a day, sending out six trucks and we are burning more fuel and the additional risks every time we put a vehicle on the road are great, including the additional safety [risk] we are putting on the community."

National Transport Commission (NTC) CEO Nick Dimopoulos says urban encroachment is eating up opportunities to efficiently plan for freight corridors.

He told the Freight Week conference that the private sector must also be a part of the decision making process on infrastructure.

"Private sector needs the opportunity to determine where and when infrastructure is upgraded," Dimopoulos says.

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