Canberra sools Big Data on road planning

Fletcher launches Data Collection and Dissemination Plan project, praises DGL

Canberra sools Big Data on road planning
Paul Fletcher wants trucking data to inform road infrastructure spending priorities


The federal government aims to use the massive amount of freight vehicle GPS data that has been collected to help it plan transport infrastructure investments.

The message comes as urban infrastructure minister Paul Fletcher releases the terms of reference for the Data Collection and Dissemination Plan project, with a draft plan scheduled for release within six months.

Fletcher has also revealed that the government has undertook a pilot study last year "using a month's worth of GPS data collected from 1,500 vehicles, providing data for some 100,000 trips and some 18 million GPS records".

"This project – which involves the federal, state and territory governments, and representatives from the transport sector and academia – will examine how the wealth of big data information can be used to better inform the decision-making process," he says.

He adds that by "providing information on freight routes, speeds and fleet composition, big data has the potential to improve the productive capacity of both current and future transport networks".

 "Of course we will be talking to lots of people right across the sector in addition to those on the steering group. We want to know where the gaps and opportunities are.

"In addition, we are going to roll into this project the fruits of several other strands of work already underway. For example, BITRE and the ABS are working together on ways to collect road freight data from telematics and administrative data sources."

Amongst the players involved in this are the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) and Australian Logistics Council (ALC), freight industry operators, government agencies, vehicle telematics services providers and other freight industry stakeholders.

The project was launched at an event hosted by the Smart Infrastructure Facility, at the University of Wollongong, and forms part of the Australian Government's response to Infrastructure Australia's Australian Infrastructure Plan.

In his speech, Fletcher praised Brisbane-headquartered transport and logistics firm DGL saying he was "impressed to see the data which is generated from the in-vehicle telematics units installed in every truck in their fleet.

"The fact is, major transport businesses are assiduous users of technology to operate as efficiently as possible.

"As new technologies are developed and rapidly become very affordable, they are taken up very quickly by businesses and organisations in the transport sector.

"As a result, the volume of data being generated throughout our transport networks is both very large and increasing very rapidly."

However, he expressed dismay that such information failed to inform crucial government efforts.

"There is a program called the National Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program on which the Australian Government has spent $288 million over seven years to 2019-20," Fletcher says.

"This is for things like upgrading roundabouts or bridges so that trucks, including B-doubles, can use these roads—with the attendant productivity benefits.

"Yet the way we allocate this funding does not really take advantage of the data being generated by transport operators such as DGL, which I mentioned earlier.

"That data could readily identify locations where trucks slow down, for example to navigate roundabouts which are too tight for trucks.

"But the way we allocate this money is that we ask local councils to apply for funding to improve roads in their region.

"They are not the road users—and they do not have the data that the truck operators have."

The Terms of Reference for the development of the Data Collection and Dissemination Plan are available at:

The Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) will lead the project, overseen by a Steering Group comprising industry, academia and government representatives, including:


Wollongong University's Smart Infrastructure Facility

The Port of Brisbane


The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)

Infrastructure Australia

Infrastructure Partnerships Australia (IPA)

The NSW Data Analytics Centre.

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