Freight task booming; B-doubles tipped to benefit

Australia’s freight task has grown significantly, according to report that tips B-doubles to prosper at expense of six-axle articulated varieties

By Ruza Zivkusic | March 24, 2011

The Australian freight task has quadrupled over the last four decades, with over 80 percent of additional freight carried by road or rail, a report has found.

Growth in bulk commodity exports such as coal and iron ore has caused the increase, according to the Department of Infrastructure and Transport’s Truck Productivity: sources, trends and future prospects report released this month.

Freight is expected to double over the next two decades, with trends in future freight activity set to influence the efficiency with which the additional freight is moved.

The domestic road freight has grown six-fold from around 27 billion tonne kilometres in 1971 to over 180 billion tonne kilometres in 2007, the report states.

"Over that period, the average productivity of road freight vehicles – that is, the freight carried per registered freight vehicle, including light commercial vehicles, has more than doubled," the report states.

"As a result, the 2007 freight task required half as many vehicles as would have been required in the absence of productivity growth."

The factors contributing to an increase in heavy vehicle productivity include the introduction of an expanded network for larger combinations such as B-doubles, increases in mass and dimension limits and infrastructure investment, the report says.

With the road freight task expected to almost double by 2030, the report says the share of freight carried by B-doubles will grow at the expense of six-axle articulated trucks without further significant transport reforms.

The report claims B-doubles’ share of the freight task will plateau around 52 percent of total road freight by 2030.

"Under this scenario the average load of articulated trucks is projected to increase from around 20.9 tonnes per vehicle in 2007 to around 21.09 tonnes in 2030," the report says.

According to the report, a lack of productivity reforms will also hinder heavy vehicle growth.

"Even with increased uptake of higher productivity vehicles under PBS [performance based standards] and the Intelligent Access Program (IAP), future heavy vehicle productivity growth is likely to be much lower than recent experience," it says.

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