A national approach to securing our supply chain

Warren Clark.

The resilience and ingenuity of Australia’s road transport industry never ceases to amaze me.

Our freight network isn’t just surviving, it is thriving, even amid the substantial challenges we’ve faced from both natural disasters and global upheavals, like the COVID-19 pandemic.

For example, when a major weather event closed the Trans Australian rail line (between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie) in March.

The obvious response was to shift freight onto road, and the Eyre Highway became crowded overnight, putting serious pressure on the heavy vehicle network.

Another example was in February when bushfires cut both the rail and road arteries linking South Australia and Western Australia. Yet our road transport sector demonstrated remarkable resilience, despite some obvious challenges.

In fact, our sector consistently underpins our economy by keeping critical goods moving when alternative transport, like trains, fail.

This adaptability highlights the strength of trucking, but it also shows us the pressing need for strategic improvements in our national freight and supply chain strategy.

At NatRoad, we see the need for a refreshed strategy delivering not just ideas but real, impactful, and funded outcomes.

This means having well-planned alternative routes ready to activate when major freight corridors are closed.

Quick road access approvals are also crucial in these times, ensuring that freight can reroute efficiently without significant delay.

In addition, the need for better infrastructure planning and investment is vital, especially in areas like Western Australia and the Northern Territory, where options for alternate routes are often limited.

Finally, linking the resilience of the road network to our advocacy for road service level standards is essential.

We need a funding model targeting the most vulnerable routes, where closures are frequent and disruptive.

By using data to assess resilience, such as the frequency and duration of route closures, we can direct funding more effectively, ensuring the roads most susceptible to closures receive the attention and investment they deserve.

Strategic enhancements like these can help in fortifying our network against the array of pressures it faces, from extreme weather events to global economic shifts.

Diesel prices, international conflicts, and economic instability all influence our operations and planning.

So, if we recognise and prepare for when the next challenge arrives, our network isn’t just reacting, it’s ready to go.

An updated national freight and supply chain strategy must move beyond discussion, offering concrete steps to enhance our network.

As you know all too well, trucking supports the Australian economy, it’s a critical pillar that requires strong, decisive leadership and policy, and funding, to navigate future challenges.

Warren Clark,
National Road Transport Association CEO

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