Truck turnaround times in record territory at ports

Port container-rail promises broken in major states bar WA

Truck turnaround times in record territory at ports
The ACCC monitoring report


While terminal access charges took much of the oxygen from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) Container stevedoring monitoring report 2017-18, there were also insights into other haulage issues worth taking notice of, such as truck turnaround time (TTT).

One aspect is the conundrum of more container loading equipment actually hindering fast TTT and the unstinting growth of 40-foot containers for trade.

The report notes that as yard equipment is finite, allocating more equipment to unloading ships "may mean that servicing of road trucks can be impacted, which can result in increased TTT, queuing and congestion at stevedore terminals.

"Alternatively, if a disproportionate amount of yard equipment is allocated to service land transport operators, quayside service quality may suffer."

The issue is one exercising minds at stevedore DP World Australia (DPWA).

"DP World has noted that finding landside productivity efficiencies from TTT alone could encourage more single truck deliveries, thereby increasing the number of trucks on the road. Increasing average truck loads, while potentially leading to poorer TTT, would have the benefit of improving landside congestion on container terminals by reducing the number of trucks," it states.

Read about how the port-truck interface was working in the previous report, here

Against that, the average of twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) loaded in ports has been a mixed bag over the past seven years.

"Over that period, Sydney, Brisbane, and Fremantle’s truck utilisation rates have deteriorated, while Melbourne and Adelaide’s have improved. However, in 2017–18, truck utilisation increased at all ports," the report says.

"These trends have meant that truck utilisation at Australia’s ports has increased slightly in the past seven years.

"Melbourne had the highest average TEU per truck in 2017–18, with around 2.7 TEU per truck, while Sydney had the lowest with around 2.1 TEU per truck."

Meanwhile, TTT at major ports are falling generally, with times over the past seven years improving, down from 33.9 minutes in 2011–12 to a record low of 29.6 minutes in 2017–18.

Average TTT slightly improved over the past year, decreasing by 0.2 minutes.

In 2017–18, Fremantle TTT continued to be the best of all container ports in terms of turnaround times while Brisbane has been taking the most time to process trucks. Average truck processing times improved by 3.9 minutes in Melbourne, but deteriorated by one minute in Sydney.

For the future, the report points to the increasing importance of vehicle booking systems for managing the ever-growing container distribution task and the increasing pressure haulage firms are under to operate outside of standard business hours to avoid congestion – at some stage.

For as the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) impending Waterline 63 report will show, VBS figures indicate little or no improvement on usage at nights or weekends in the past seven years or so after increases between 2009-10 and 2012-13.

On the rail side, despite political pledges to raise its percentage for over the past decade, they have been broken in all states bar Western Australia.

Fremantle has the highest share of containers carried by rail of 17.9 per cent, up from below 14 per cent in 2011-12.

Though comparative cost and reliability factors are said to be the root of the problem, the report has confidence infrastructure investment will make a difference in the big capital cities.

"Recent investment by the Commonwealth Government worth around $400 million to duplicate 2.9 kilometres of freight line in Sydney is expected to improve certainty and reliability of rail freight operations to and from Port Botany," it says.

"Similarly, the Victorian Government’s recently released freight plan looks to establish port rail shuttles and supports the Port of Melbourne’s plan to develop on-dock rail terminals for Swanson Dock."

All this is occurring as container throughput growth resumes a strong upward rate.

This rose from around 4.7 million to 5.1 million, while in TEU terms it increased from around 7.2 million to 8 million.

The 8.1 per cent lifts rise was the highest in the past decade, with the next highest being 5.7 per cent in 2010–11.

On a TEU basis the 11.6 per cent increase was also the highest in the past decade, with 2010–11 being the next highest at 6.1 per cent.

Uplift in container volumes was mainly due to strong growth in domestic demand for imports fuelled by population and economic growth as well as growth in refrigerated and empty container exports. TEUs grew at all of Australia’s monitored ports in 2017–18.

Melbourne experienced the largest growth (14.2 per cent), followed by Fremantle (12.2 per cent), Sydney (11.3 per cent), Brisbane (9.6 per cent) and Adelaide (2.9 per cent).

Melbourne was marginally Australia’s largest international container stevedoring port after it handled 34.2 per cent of total international container trade. Port Botany followed closely with 34.1 per cent.



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