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New report investigates ongoing impact of COVID on road freight supply chains

The Monash University report has revealed the current implications of the COVID pandemic on the Australian transport supply chain

A new report, titled Coronavirus and Road Freight Supply Chains in Australia – Impact and Implications, has revealed the ongoing implications of COVID-19 on road freight supply chains in Australia.

The Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC) and the National Road Safety Partnership Program (NRSPP) have combined to release the research paper into the impact on Australia’s supply chains since March 2020.

The report says the fear of scarcity triggered panic buying, stockpiling and shifts in consumer behaviour have profoundly impacted freight distribution patterns.

Co-authored by leading Australian heavy vehicle transport safety expert Dr Sarah Jones and Monash University transport planning and road safety professional Dr Jennifer Rivera-Gonzalez, the report looks at understanding the dynamics of supply chains during crises.

“During the first wave of COVID-19, we were faced with the prospect of ‘not having enough’ for the first time since the Second World War. We witnessed significant disruptions in supply chains, leading to panic buying and a surge in online shopping,” Jones says.

“This research sheds light on the critical role of road freight in maintaining essential supplies and explores the implications of government policies on freight workers and road safety.”

The research paper delves into the management of road freight and its workers during the crisis, examining the consequences of policy decisions which deemed truck drivers as essential workers. It also raises broader questions about the impact of consumer behaviour shifts and road safety concerns on the road freight sector.

“Road freight has always been critical in Australia because it delivers ‘last mile’ access. It played a crucial role in ensuring the delivery of essential goods during the pandemic, yet its significance remains underexplored,” Rivera-Gonzalez says.

“This research provides insight into the challenges faced by the road freight sector, such as the state-based rule-making system when border crossing is essential, and underscores the need for proactive measures to strengthen supply chains in the face of future crises.”

As the world grapples with the ongoing pandemic and potential future crises, the research poses the critical question of: have we learned from the COVID-19 experience?

“We cannot afford to overlook the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic,” NRSPP director Jerome Carslake says.

“Australia’s reliance on road freight was heightened during the pandemic due to changes in consumption. As we navigate future challenges, it is imperative to leverage this research to enhance the resilience of road freight supply chains and safeguard the well-being of freight workers.”

The release of Coronavirus and Road Freight Supply Chains in Australia – Impact and Implications marks a significant milestone in understanding the intricacies of supply chain dynamics during crises and underscores the importance of proactive measures to mitigate disruptions.

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