Opinion: Future growth and efficiency

By: James Thomson

With an increased freight task predicted for the next quarter century comes the need for more efficient transport services

Opinion: Future growth and efficiency
Electric vehicles such Fuso eCanter are already in testing and operation.


Over the next 25 years, operators in the transport and logistics sectors will face significant structural changes.

With the Australian population forecast to grow by almost 40 percent, demand for transport and logistics services will grow substantially.

The domestic freight task is expected to grow by 26 percent over the next 10 years, more than double in 25 years, and triple by 2050 to service the expanding population.

Road freight transporters dominate the Australian non-bulk freight market, benefiting from their advantages in price, speed, convenience and reliability.

In cities, light commercial vehicles are the dominant form of transport for the final stage of delivery.

The industry's major markets span the entire economy, and efficient road freight transport is integral to the economy’s performance.

Infrastructure investment by state and federal governments will heavily influence the sector over the next 25 years.

Corridors protected from development will be required to provide for the growing domestic freight task, and we may see a greater shift towards a ‘hub and spoke’ network model, with regional cities acting as multimodal logistics hubs.

Advances in manufacturing processes, such as 3D printing, will allow on-demand manufacturing to be undertaken closer to consumers, making the transport of raw material inputs increasingly important.

Over the next 25 years, advances in drone technology may ease the logistical burden of increased urbanisation on road infrastructure.Growth In Australia

By using GPS, drones will be able to deliver small parcels directly to consumer locations rather than fixed addresses.

At an operational level, technology will drive changes in the way industry participants do business.

In the short-term, we expect to see the continued shift towards fuel-efficient and low emission vehicles, with increased use of electric-powered and hybrid vehicles for short-haul transport in urban areas.

Increased urbanisation is expected to make intra-city freight take up an increasingly significant share of the domestic freight task.

Electric vehicles, such SEA Automotive’s EV10 and Daimler’s Fuso eCanter, are already in testing and operation.

These vehicles have a limited range, which makes them suitable from intra-city delivery. The total cost of owning electric vehicles is expected to decline over time.

Over the next 25 years, we expect to see autonomous vehicle technology being increasingly integrated in trucks.

Investment in truck platooning technology for long-haul transport is expected to continue, with increased vehicle-to-vehicle communication and cloud-based data analysis used for route planning.

Companies such as Daimler, Volvo and Peterbilt are developing self-driving trucks, with the Daimler Freightliner Inspiration being the first licensed autonomous commercial truck to operate on an open public highway in the United States.

However, this shift is expected to be gradual, with semi-autonomous vehicle technology, such as automatic breaking and speed control, initially to be used for long-haul transport, slowly transitioning towards fully autonomous vehicles.

A shift towards rail freight and coastal shipping may also ease congestion and the burden on road-based infrastructure, with crewless, self-navigating autonomous ships used for non-urgent transport.

The next 25 years will pose several challenges to operators. However, short- to medium-term developments in transport and logistics technology will primarily improve efficiency, benefiting transport and logistics operators.

Embracing technological change and implementing cost efficiencies should leave operators well-placed to service Australia’s increasing freight task over the next 25 years.

James Thomson is an IBISWorld senior industry analyst.

This article first appeared in the February 2018 edition of ATN magazine. Get your copy here.

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