Urban congestion will cost operators post-recession

Australia recovering from the economic doldrums, but increasing traffic could stifle resurgence of road transport

Australia is recovering from the economic doldrums, but increasing traffic could stifle the resurgence of road transport operators.

That’s the warning from Isuzu chief Phil Taylor, who says urban congestion will cost transporters even more as freight volumes pick up.

Taylor believes Australia is well positioned to lead the recovery among developed nations, with government stimulus and efforts to sure up credit markets helping avoid a technical recession.

But operators are suffering from a lack of efficiency in the road network.

"And the problem will only be compounded once the economy returns to full throttle," Taylor says.

A recent Vic Roads estimate found that congestion is costing Australian businesses $9.4 billion per year, with the federal transport department estimating urban growth will increase another 30 to 40 percent by 2020.

Increasing freight volumes will see commercial vehicle kilometres rise by 80 percent, while the kilometres of light commercial vehicle – the backbone of the urban freight task – will jump by 90 percent.

Taylor says the numbers indicate increased cost to the supply chain and a number of challenges for trucking operators in meeting future emission targets.

"There are many concerns within the transport industry with regard to urban congestion," he says.

"For example, Woolworths has noted that 80 percent of its transport task is in metro areas, meaning urban infrastructure and traffic flow have a profound effect on its logistics and supply chain efficiency.

"With the expansion of urban centres and a population shift towards suburban areas, the number of non-commercial vehicles on our roads has risen dramatically, expanding peak hour congestion times.

"Trucks are most affected by road congestion, as their relative lack of manoeuvrability and slower driving speeds compared to cars and motorbikes means longer periods in traffic, and increased pollution from longer engine hours and more kilometres travelled."

Taylor says the billions of dollars allocated for infrastructure investment must be properly coordinated between local, state and federal governments to address congestion issues.

"A holistic approach must be taken in addressing traffic congestion and implementing infrastructure programs," he says.

"With growing urban boundaries and an economic turnaround expected in 2010, immediate action is required to address the issues before our economy returns to full capacity.

"A coordinated approach is essential, with good communication and cooperation between all levels of government to overcome the problems and ensure that we are well placed to meet the freight requirements of a thriving nation."

Is congestion costing your business? What impact is traffic and an inefficient urban road network having on your operation? ATN is examining the issue of urban congestion and wants to hear from you. Leave your comments below or e-mail your feedback.

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