The long-anticipated TraNSIT transport logistics tool developed by CSIRO researchers has identified that it’s 70 per cent less expensive to transport cattle or beef by road than rail.
It’s just one of the revelations in the final agricultural report released last week, which is now working its magic on 98 per cent of agricultural commodities across Australia.
Besides focusing on each agricultural commodity, it features a flood case study and rail to road scenarios.
“Several case studies were identified by industry and government for this final report, representing TraNSIT’s diversity of applications across Australia,” project leader, Andrew Higgins said.
The rail to road hypothetical scenario looked at the impact of shifting all agriculture – grains, beef, sugar, and cotton – that currently use rail to be road only.
Grains were more expensive ($208m) when transported by road while cattle (or beef) was about 70 per cent less expensive to transport by road.
These differences were primarily due to rail wagon capacity versus semi-trailer capacity.
“When you dig deeper, it can identify where to build rail hubs,” Dr Higgins said. “It’s very pertinent in light of the inland rail discussions as well.”
The tool evaluated the impact of road closures and detours on the transport of valuable crops and livestock during floods, using the September-October 2016 rainfall event around Forbes, NSW, as a case study.
Dr Higgins said there had been about a $2m increase in transport costs created by the short term and long term road closures from the flooding event, and about another 500 vehicle trips that could not occur as there was no alternative routes.
"The cost would have been even greater if the floods had occurred during harvest season where more cotton and grain are being transported in large volumes on the roads.”
Using TraNSIT, researchers can analyse several ways to reduce the economic impact of floods throughout Australia and identify the upgrading or raising of particular bridges to reduce the frequency of closures from flooding.
This will in turn reduce the occurrences where cattle or harvested crops cannot reach their market.
Dr Higgins said the effect of seasonal flooding across northern Queensland was on the horizon to be analysed.
Providing the most detailed map of routes and costings across Australia’s entire agricultural supply chain, TraNSIT has the potential to save industry millions of dollars annually by identifying ways to reduce travel distance and time, save fuel costs, cut down on wear and tear to vehicles and produce, and minimise stress for both truck drivers and livestock.
Read more: TraNSIT reforms transport modelling
While it’s been applied to nearly every agriculture transport type across Australia – beef, sheep, goats, dairy, pigs, poultry, grains, cotton, rice, sugar, stockfeed, horticultural and even buffalo – local government representatives are pretty excited about its potential too.
Central Highlands Regional Council CEO, Scott Mason, said in a world of endless wants, it was important to be able to see what contribution each road made and to factor in safety needs.
“It’s going to help us elevate roads that deserve to be funded with more confidence – some of the data we’ve relied on has been outdated,” he said.
“There will be some critical links from producer to processor that will really show the value in improving.
“I think it will also show what effect it will have on other roads if you allow one to fall into disrepair.”
He anticipated valuable collaboration at a regional level, particularly for agricultural use, via the Central Highlands Development Corporation.
According to Dr Higgins, although it wasn’t an initial application of the tool, there was a lot of excitement in the tourism industry around looking at the impact changing road use can have on that industry.
It was initially developed in 2013 to provide a comprehensive view of transport logistics costs and benefits based on infrastructure investments in agriculture supply chains in Australia.
An initiative of the federal government’s Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper, it was originally applied to the beef industry before being extended to all agriculture transport.
The first project under the $100 million Beef Roads program will be the sealing of 17km of the Clermont to Alpha Road in central Queensland, due to start early next year.
The $8m works will improve road safety and access for oversize vehicles while reducing freight and maintenance costs.
Dr Higgins said he had also been showing the tool to other commodities such as minerals, fuel and general freight, and a TraNSIT website was being developed that government and industry could use to do their own mapping for industry supply chain planning.
TraNSIT is now being applied overseas, particularly in Indonesia, Laos and Vietnam to address supply chain inefficiencies and cross-border bottlenecks.
For more information on TraNSIT and to view the final agricultural report, visit the CSIRO website.