Searching for best national transport model

A triumvirate of Australian freight councils has launched a project designed to extract the most from the nation’s transport modes in the next 15-20 years.
The Victorian Freight and Logistics Council, along with counterparts in Queensland and Western Australia, wants to determine the optimal paths for domestic freight in an industry where the national task is expected to double as soon as 2025.
The Multimodal Australia Responsiveness Project (MARP) will examine the benefits of a broader modal spread to meet freight demands, particularly for inter-capital movements, with the aim of delivering improved cost and efficiency levels for the transport industry and lessening negative impacts on the community.
According to the National Transport Commission’s Twice the Task report, there will be severe constraints on rail and road infrastructure across this period, coupled with key labour shortages, higher fuel costs and the introduction of emissions trading. Unless appropriate policy measures are put in place by Australian governments, matched by appropriate commercial practices by industry, door-to-door freight services face increasing congestion and greater resistance to community impact, the freight councils believe.
Conceived by the VFLC’s Freight Intermodal Efficiency Group, MARP aims to compare and contrast various modal alternatives and determine the most appropriate for any given task, in order to get the most out of the system.
Council chairman John Begley said it was important the freight transport industry play its part in finding workable answers to key questions.
“Can we re-think supply chains to determine which mode works best for what tasks? Just what is Australia’s current envelope of capacity, and how could that be expanded – as it must, if freight volumes are to be accommodated – through shippers adapting to a suite of modes, depending on the goods to be moved?  Just what is the level of interoperability, and what are the physical, practical and commercial limitations holding back better performance?” Mr Begley asked.
“Very few domestic freight forwarders or company logistics managers have experience across different modes – so are they selecting the best mode for the job, or are they captive to their experience?  Which mode best suits which supply chain – does a particular product really need to be handled with 24-hour, 48-hour or just-in-time delivery, or could the system’s capacity be better used?”
The councils’ joint study will examine the different strengths and suitability of transport modes available for interstate general freight movements, with the aim of discovering the best uni-, bi- or multi-modal solutions for the Melbourne-Perth and Brisbane-Melbourne corridors over that 15-20-year period.
The MARP study will look at reasons behind current modal choice, current and future demand and supply, scrutinize the detail of selected freight movements and requirements, uncover likely benefits of or constraints to modal switch or diversity, and recommended changes to government and industry practices to ensure maximum efficiency. 
A final MARP report will advise the freight councils and their sponsoring governments of the advantages, opportunities and impediments and possible action to achieve optimal freight movement outcomes.
The freight councils want to tap directly into industry experience to build the MARP study’s value and authority.
“If you are a cargo owner shipping interstate or a supplier to the interstate containerised trades between Victoria, Western Australia and Queensland, we’d like your input.  We’re interested in your experience in using road, rail or coastal shipping and hearing how you cope with interruptions to any one mode,” Mr Begley said.
“You might wish to take part in the project by participating in the case studies or making your views known, or you may just want to keep up-to-date with the various stages of the project as it progresses.
“By registering with the VFLC, via email, phone or website, you can contribute to MARP as appropriate and stay informed about project milestones.”
For further information or to participate in MARP:
VFLC Secretariat
PO Box 18179
Collins St East
VIC 8003
Tel: (03) 8688 1830

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