Regional Freight Routes a Priority in Federal Budget 2018

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Last week the Australian Government unveiled the federal budget and revealed that it would spend $3.5 billion on upgrading key freight corridors across regional Australia. The government says this will support the tourism industry and increase road safety.

The $3.5 billion will be used in the Roads of Strategic Importance (RoSI) initiative over the next ten years to upgrade main routes for communities and businesses and of the full amount, $25 million will be spent in 2018-19.

Deputy Prime Minister and Infrastructure Minister Michael McCormack said that the Budget was addressing Australia’s current infrastructure needs and the needs of the future through its ten-year investment plan. The $3.5 billion initiative would upgrade our key freight corridors across Australia.

Overall, the plan is to assign $1.5 billion of the RoSI funds for road infrastructure in northern Australia and $400 million to upgrades in Tasmania. This includes improving the Bass Highway.
$132 million has been allocated to the Princes Highway, Victoria, $971 million for the Coffs Harbour Bypass in New South Wales and $3.3 billion to the Bruce Highway in Queensland.

In Western Australia, $220 million will be spent on the Great Northern Highway constructing the Bindoon bypass. $100 million has been allocated to upgrade the Barton Highway over the next ten years, which connects the Australian Capital Territory to regional New South Wales.

The National Road Transport Association (NatRoad) praised the allocation of funds and said that the potential is there to improve the road transport industry efficiency. However, they wanted to be confident that state and local governments were also committed to improve access to roads for oversized vehicles.
NatRoad claims that the current system is flawed and they want to see it fixed. Some members, for example, are able to get permits for both ends of a road, but not sections in between.

The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) agrees with NatRoad and says that a key condition for road funding to state and local governments, including the RoSI initiative, should be access for OSOM (oversize/overmass) vehicles.

ATA chairman, Geoff Crouch, also says that trucking operators who transport OSOM freight are in crisis because getting permits takes so long. According to Crouch, 4.5 million days every year are spent by freight transport Australia simply waiting to get permission to transport freight.

He says that conditions should be attached to infrastructure funding, requiring states and local councils to respond to permit applications more quickly.

Real Costs Associated with a Courier Quote

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It can be difficult for customers who don’t work with freight transport on a day to day basis to understand what they are in fact paying for and who they are paying to have their goods moved. Factors that impact on a courier quote are closely linked to what it costs a freight company to transport the specified goods. A freight transport company’s biggest expenses generally relate to the vehicle, including fuel and other running costs, and the driver. Hence, anything which takes more driver time or anything which requires more use of a vehicle (which includes both taking up more of the vehicles carrying capacity and carrying the freight over a longer period of time) can be expected to increase the final cost of the delivery.

Maximum Weight and Volume Restrictions Apply

Couriers have a maximum weight and maximum volume carrying capacity. For example, a typical one tonne ute will have a maximum carrying capacity of 2 standard pallets, up to 2 metres tall. However, it also has a weight limitation, in this case 1 tonne.

Obviously if you have a pallet full of mechanical parts which might weigh close to a tonne, even though it appears that there is some capacity left on the ute to carry additional freight, it won’t legally be able to carry any more on the tray. Conversely, two large pallets with large foam blocks, might only weigh a couple of hundred kilos in total, but you’re effectively paying for the large volume. Even though it can carry more weight, there simply is no more space for additional items.

Urgent Deliveries Affect Existing Routes

Deliveries with tight timeframes will almost always incur a higher charge than deliveries which have been booked with standard delivery times. Couriers operating on a same day courier service, will often be carrying multiple deliveries at any given point in time. By planning their delivery route strategically, the courier driver is able to maximise the volume of deliveries he or she is able to deliver in the space of a day and includes conveniently slotting in small deliveries that crop up at short notice.

Urgent deliveries with a very narrow timeframe effectively throw a spanner in the works as they force the courier to priorities deliveries at the “wrong end of town”. It doesn’t allow the courier driver to deliver the goods simply when they are in the near vicinity. In fact, the route for the remaining deliveries may need to be revised which of course can be quite costly both in time and driving expenses.

Allow a Generous Time Frame for Delivery and Save on Your Courier Quote

As such one of the best ways to keep the courier quote to a minimum is to package goods as efficiently as possible and to allow a generous delivery time window for the freight company. In major metro areas five hours is considered to be standard. Finally ensuring that there are no unexpected hold ups at either the pick-up end or the delivery end, will avoid any preventable demurrage charges being incurred.

Office Closed for Renovations

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Please note: Due to an upcoming office refurbishment over the Easter break, Freight Quote Australia’s office will be closed from the 23rd March to 4th April 2018. We will still be monitoring and responding to emails and booking in jobs during this time, but expect delays on responses while this is ongoing. 

Newell Highway Study Shows Rough Roads Lead to High Fuel Costs

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Every day millions of consumers across Australia indirectly pay for freight transport expenses that form part of the total price of goods that they purchase. There can be many links in the network that connects goods between producer and consumer, including an interstate freight quote. Where there are circumstances that hamper the smoothness of the transport system, these are usually passed on to consumers. As such, finding ways to increase freight efficiency is highly desirable for consumers, if these savings are then factored into the recommended retail price.

Fuel is a Regular Expense for Transport Companies

Fuel costs are an obvious expense for anyone transporting goods over short and long distances. If these could be reduced, the reductions could potentially be passed on to consumers as genuine savings. Basically, there are only two ways to save money on fuel. The first way is to reduce the number of kilometres which are driven in a day. This is usually not an option for experienced freight companies, as they have to drive certain distance to physically move the goods, and they have probably already worked out the most efficient route. The other way to bring fuel costs down is to optimise the fuel consumption of the vehicle.

Better Roads Would Lead to Reduced Fuel Consumption

The Australian Road Research Board (ARRB) has recently conducted a study on the Newell Highway (which runs from Queensland to Victoria via Dubbo) that shows a connection between fuel costs and road roughness, the Daily Liberal reported last week. The study shows that fuel consumption for heavy vehicles travelling on the Newell Highway would fall significantly if the roughest surfaces were upgraded. Faye Wheeler reports that vehicles could reduce their fuel consumption by a quarter, according to ARRB chief Michael Caltabiano. This would also mean bringing down the cost of a once off interstate freight quote, which is good news for online shoppers and others who use this kind of service.

Many Benefits from Improving Roads

Fuel consumption is not the only benefit that would result from an improved Newell Highway. Apart from reducing the risk of accidents on the road and saving lives, savings would be made on maintenance and repairs. Vehicles deteriorate more quickly when exposed extensively to rough roads. Tyres wear out more quickly and everything jolts around more, which is not ideal for the vehicle. Creating smoother roads would reduce heavy vehicle maintenance costs, and in turn these savings could be passed on to the consumer. The Australian Road Research Board study looked at several highways, but found that the Newell Highway was one that could make an immediate difference once improved. The analysis showed that around 30 percent of the road was deemed very rough.

Added Comfort for Truck Drivers and Couriers

Obviously, another aspect to rough roads is the discomfort experienced by long distance couriers and truck drivers. Couriers and truck drivers spend many hours of their day on the road, and reducing road roughness would clearly benefit them. Long distance trips would be smoother, resulting in added comfort and less noise, and potentially a more enjoyable work day. The safety of heavy vehicle drivers would also be addressed, as the risk of accidents would be reduced.

Non-negotiable Time Windows – the Bane of Every Freight Broker

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There are many variables that need to be taken into account when bulky freight is to be transported over short or long distances. You will understand the reasons behind many of the questions that your freight broker asks you, such as “will there be someone present during pick up and/or delivery? How will the goods be loaded? Is there a forklift on the premises? Will a tail lift be required?” And of course, they will want to know the total weight and volume of the consignment itself before providing you with a freight quote.

Customers who require freight to be moved for the first time will often have a particular plan in mind with regard to how they will pack and send their goods. They might state, for example, please come at 2 o’clock in the afternoon, as this is a convenient time for their business or household to assist with getting the goods on their way. Transport companies on the whole will not wish to guarantee any such pick up time. The simple reason for this is that, unlike a taxi service, where one vehicle will generally be allocated to only one job at a time, transport vehicles will often be juggling jobs, and priorities can often change during the course of the day, depending on any number of factors.

Similarly freight companies will rarely promise a delivery of a consignment at a specific time. As with the pick-up, the exact time at which a particular vehicle will find itself at the delivery point, depends on numerous factors, many of which fall completely outside of the control of the transport company and the driver of the vehicle.

Two of the most unavoidable major factors affecting the timing will be unexpected issues with an earlier pick up, for example a broken-down forklift, a lost key for a locked gate, and of course any number of traffic incidents.

When booking a freight service, it’s recommended to think more in terms of at what point the delivery will be available for pick up. The freight company will note this, but no one should be under the impression that the freight will be picked up at that time. It will be picked up from that time onwards, subject to any delays the company has experienced. In any case, providing a mobile number to the transport company and planning to be in the area on the day of pick up, is good practice.

Those not involved in the day to day moving of freight can often find it difficult to comprehend how a 2-3 hour time window can be difficult to achieve. While this is not an unreasonable thought, the fact remains that many transport companies will go to great lengths to avoid categorically guaranteeing that the goods will be delivered within the time frame when providing a freight quote Australia wide, knowing from experience that a simple road closure or accident can throw a whole delivery day out of whack. In no way does this reflect the professionalism of the freight company or the driver.

Why Top Load Only Freight is More Expensive to Move

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If you are in the process of obtaining a courier quote with a transport company or freight broker, you might find yourself being asked if your assignment is “top load only”. What does top load mean, and why does it impact the cost of transporting the goods?

“Top load only” means exactly what it implies, ie. that goods cannot be stacked underneath any other consignment. This is typically due to the fragile nature of the goods but in some cases may also be due to the fact that the peculiar shape of the assignment doesn’t lend itself to having any objects stacked on top of it.

Most large transport vehicles are confined to carrying loads of up to 2 metres; some slightly less, and some more. But 2 metres is often the maximum permissible height of a pallet. In the world of logistics, the default aim of every freight provider is to make the most use of the available carrying capacity. Since many of the consignments being moved will take up less than the maximum height, eg. 2 metres, transport companies will often unload and reload trucks strategically, stacking consignments on top of each other in order to make the maximum use of the space. When a consignment is marked “top-load only”, it means that the transport company has an additional challenge on their hands, ie. they need to find some suitable cargo to place under your goods in order to fit it in.

Take the example of a 12-tonne truck, which at its fullest will be able to carry 10 full pallets. 8 pallet spaces are already being used, so 2 pallet spaces are available. Along come an additional 2 units of freight to load, each 80cm tall and both marked “top load only”. Even though technically the 2 pallets combined are using up less metric volume than the truck’s carrying capacity, in reality it is costing a full 2 pallet spaces, since neither of these items can be stacked on top of each other. This cost will be reflected in the courier quote.

Before marking an item to be transported as “top load only”, consider first if it is actually necessary. If required, would it be able to withstand the weight of a pallet being stacked on top? If not, think carefully if there is some way you can pack the pallet to be able to withstand extra weight being placed on top, for example protecting the crushable items by placing them on the inside and packing the most robust goods on the outside. There is also the option of reinforcing your pallet, which may end up costing less than classifying your freight as “top-load only”.

Fragile goods can also be marked as such even though all freight must be packaged to be able to withstand the normal bumps and jolts of road transport. This can help in particular at the stage of the freight being moved between vehicles. If the freight company can be tipped off to the fact that it’s fragile, it can encourage them to take a bit of extra care when handling.

Police Blitz on Heavy Vehicle Industry Yields Thousands of Defect Notices

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Freight Quote - Road Freight Transportation ServicesOperation Rolling Thunder is Australia’s biggest campaign ever targeting trucking vehicles and was launched in the state of New South Wales on Thursday 1st February. Police pulled over 6000 trucks as part of a huge crackdown on heavy vehicles. It was rolled out over four states and the ACT in one day. The operation was reportedly triggered by the deaths of 5 people involved in 3 separate collisions involving trucks in NSW over 2 days in January this year.

Ray Hadley from 2GB reported that 26 heavy vehicle drivers were caught with drugs in their system in the trucking blitz that started last Thursday. According to NSW Police Assistant Commissioner of Traffic and Highway Patrol Michael Corboy, this is a disgrace. What was concerning, he said, was that people still think that they are able to drive these heavy vehicles under the influence of drugs.

Even though more than 1500 others tested negative to drugs, this wasn’t good enough, according to Corboy, confirming that the 26 offenders were being prosecuted.
Assistant Commissioner Corboy reportedly stated that over 2000 defect notices were issued, a whopping one third of the trucks that were pulled over. Whilst most of these were minor issues, the fact that there were as many as 2000 was a bit of a problem. They also encountered a few major defects, in fact 33 trucks in total were not fit to be on the road. In NSW alone, 900 infringement notices were issued.

Corboy said that the actions taken last Thursday sent out a clear message to freight specialists that the traffic authorities know what’s going on and that they will continue to enforce vehicle safety and good driver behaviour. He warned drivers not to let their guard down, because this kind of action would be taken repeatedly.

Ray Hadley commended Corboy on the figures from the campaign, commenting that although the results were not as good as they ideally should be, they weren’t bad. They showed that most trucks and their drivers are out on the road, doing the best they can.

According to The Guardian, the NSW roads and maritime services director of compliance, Roger Weeks, said that this kind of crackdown was exactly what the professional truck drivers and freight specialists in the industry wanted; eliminating the dodgy operators who were giving the rest of the trucking industry a bad reputation.

On the other hand, national secretary of the Transport Workers Union (TWU), Tony Sheldon, defended truck drivers and transport companies and believed that the wealthy retailers and manufacturers at the top were actually the ones who should be under scrutiny. He claimed that their low-cost contracts were putting undue pressure on transport companies and drivers, causing delays on vehicle maintenance which resulted in trucks not being up to standard.

The transport union was also concerned about the burden being placed on drivers and the pressure they face to work longer hours, skip their breaks and speed.

Tests set to begin this year in Netherlands for self-driving freight train

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Alstom, the French multinational rail transport company, will reportedly begin testing automated freight trains in the Netherlands this year.

The self-driving train prototype is able to travel distances up to 100km without driver intervention and will be trialled on the Betuweroute in the Netherlands, a 150km double track freight line linking Rotterdam to Germany. Alstom has signed a contract with ProRail, the Dutch infrastructure operator, and Rotterdam Rail Feeding to carry out the trials.

Automated trains would still need to employ drivers

The goal of the trials is to demonstrate that the train is able to travel safely without constant, active human regulation, through communication with the signal system. Trains like these would still employ drivers, who would then be able to take on a more passive driving role, freeing them up for other duties like monitoring the trains’ progress.

Drivers would need to be present to be able to override the automations in the case of unfortunate events like people jumping in front of trains or driving vehicles onto the tracks.

Rio Tinto successfully performed fully automated train journey last year

Automation is considered to be the future of transport and several countries are working to develop the automated train concept. Rio Tinto, an Australian-British mining company, succeeded in performing its first fully automated heavy haul train journey last year, a real milestone for freight Australia. The nearly 100km test run was completed safely in Western Australia without a driver on board, although it was monitored closely by teams on the ground and at the Operations Centre in Perth.

Partially autonomous freight and commuter trains already operating

Partially autonomous railway networks already exist, where drivers have other duties to perform on board, like assisting passengers, opening and closing doors, and of course taking over the controls in case of emergencies or unforeseen circumstances. These systems are currently used in the Paris Metro, the Seoul Metropolitan Subway and in some parts of the London Underground.

Although automating rail transport has distinct advantages, such as increased capacity of the rail network, it is unlikely that driverless trains will ever become fully autonomous. Rail journalist Tony Miles told the BBC that he can’t foresee a train where there is nobody sitting at the front at all. He states that there is still a significant gap between computer intelligence and what humans are able to sense in terms of unpredicted situations.

Gian-Luca Erbacci, senior vice president for Alstom in Europe, said that their alliance with ProRail and Rotterdam Rail Feeding would support the progress of new technology and create a sustainable rail system that was more attractive and competitive.

Existing rail infrastructure is a challenge for future trains

One of the challenges that complicates the future development of automated freight trains in Europe is the existing rail infrastructure. The more than one hundred year old Victorian railways were simply never designed to communicate with automated trains.

So while it’s one thing to design an automated train track from scratch, it is not as straightforward to upgrade existing lines. The process of replacing conventional trains would be challenging, considering how busy some of the European railways are. Getting an automatic signalling system to work over a long distance is also going to be difficult to achieve.

About Courier Holidays & Christmas – Best time to be a Courier?

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Couriers need holidays like everyone else, but unlike workers and contractors in many other industries, there’s not much talk of winding back leading up to the major public holidays.

The pre-Christmas rush is arguably the busiest time in the transportation and courier industry. Everything is ‘urgent’ and simply must be delivered before businesses close and families lock up their houses and go away on holidays. Some courier companies practically forbid their drivers to start their holidays before Christmas Eve, it’s all hands on deck until darkness falls on the 24th of December..

But what about after Christmas? Then it’s a different story. Things settle down for a bit, and there’s one good reason why you might enjoy working as a courier holiday driver in the days and weeks after Christmas: less cars on the road! Traffic is one of those necessary evils which every taxi driver and courier must simply learn to live with. School traffic – i.e. mums, dads and school buses dropping off their kids before 9am and picking them up after 3pm is a substantial contributor to the ‘peak hour traffic’ on the roads of all major Australian cities. Who hasn’t felt their temperature rising as the Lollypop lady with her broad brimmed hat patiently ushers the last school stragglers across the zebra crossing, absorbed in their library books, or (in the case of high school kids) intently staring at their mobile phone screens, oblivious to their surroundings. Not to mention the Police Highway Patrol vehicles lurking in amongst the parked cars. “What do you mean, 65 in a 40 zone??”

5 minutes and $500 something dollars later..

But school zones aside, the mere absence of so many cars is immediate felt by all courier drivers. This, together with a couple of million Australian’s who don’t need to travel to and from work during the Christmas and early January period, makes a compelling case to be a courier during this holiday period. You’ll almost have the road to yourself.

Merry Christmas to all the couriers, truck drivers and other drivers out there!

Freight insurance – is it worth it?

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These days you can insure yourself or you business against almost any risk under the sun. A handful of these insurances most businesses would not want to be without, and some in fact (such as workers insurance) are mandatory for most businesses employing staff. Others like Public Liability insurance will often be required in order to deal with certain customers, who want to be confident that if something really blows up, that their will be insurance cover in place to compensate them for their losses. Most professional services firms such as financial advisers and solicitors wouldn’t even consider operating without ‘professional liability’ insurance. On the other end of the spectrum you will find insurances which many people are comfortable living without, but others may choose to prioritise, things like sickness insurance, loss of income, etc. etc. You can even insure your pets.

Freight insurance is slightly different to the above mentioned insurances.  Freight and transport companies moving freight every day may insure everything they move, up to a certain value. However if your freight consignment is a ‘one-off’ – e.g. you’ve just bought a gym set on EBAY and you need a courier to get it from the sellers address to your own – then you should consider whether or not you wish to insure the consignment against loss and damage in transit.

What are the inherent risks of transporting goods by road?

If you’re moving something from A to B, there is no practical way to eliminate all risk. Even if you put the consignment into your own vehicle boot, there is no guarantee that another vehicle on the road won’t crash into the back of you, resulting in ‘loss or damage in transit’. The key difference with using a freight or courier company is of course that it’s a third party who is handling the consignment. Compare this to e.g. when you travel on a plane: your hand luggage stays with you, or close within reach, whereas the ‘checked in’ luggage is entrusted entirely to third parties. While both are at risk of loss or damage, if you had to pick between insuring only one of them, you’d probably opt for the checked in luggage.

Ultimately the decision as to whether or not to insure a road transport consignment is a question of how you wish to balance the risk. While risk cannot be eliminated, fortunately the two greatest risks “loss” and “damage” can be significantly reduced. The following rules of thumb are highly recommended, regardless of whether you choose to insure your consignment:

Package the goods securely and correctly.

This cannot be stressed enough. No amount of careful handling can avoid damage to an item which hasn’t been packaged properly, or which isn’t strapped properly to the pallet.

Mark the goods clearly and correctly

There are two reasons for this, and the first one is the most obvious – the goods will stand a very good chance of being delivered directly to the address you provide! But the second reason is just as important: should the consignment be temporarily misplaced, then a clearly marked consignment will stand the best chance of finding its way back to the correct depot, onto the correct delivery vehicle, and en-route to its correct destination, in the shortest possible time.

This article is general in nature and does not constitute legal, insurance services or other professional advice.