The future of the Australian transport and logistics industry is bright. Over the next quarter century, the transport and logistics sector will have access to some shiny new technologies that will undoubtably increase the efficiency of transport operations around the country.
The Australian population is forecast to grow by almost 40 percent through 2040. So, it makes sense that over the next 25 years, the demand for transport and logistics services will grow at a similar rate. Forecasts show that Australia’s domestic freight task is expected to grow by 26 percent over the next 10 years, more than double in 25 years, and triple by 2050 to service the expanding number of metro and regional Australian residents.
It’s imperative then that future transport technology be implemented to help Australia’s transport and logistics industry keep pace with the country’s growing population and improve its ability to service the Australian people.
Advancements in drone technology and the rising commercial availability of electric and autonomous vehicles are the primary areas where greater efficiencies in Australia’s transport and logistics industry will be driven.
While there are still some large barriers to the commercial use of drones, not least of them being the safety aspect and risk of conflict with general aviation users, the adoption of more sophisticated drone technology may be a viable way to ease the logistical burden of Australia’s increased urbanisation on road infrastructure.
The widespread use of drone distribution may still be a while off, but the implications of such technology is most certainly worth the wait. Using GPS, drones will be able to deliver small parcels directly to consumer locations in addition to their fixed addresses.
However, before that happens, drones are currently filling the airspace of warehouse interiors. For example, Walmart has equipped small drones with optical scanners to scan inventory in its gargantuan warehouses (the smallest is the size of 17 football fields). These fly around completely autonomously and can scan a volume of inventory in one hour, that would otherwise require 50 humans – that’s a huge cost and time saving.
Australia’s increased urbanisation is expected to make intra-city freight take up an increasingly significant share of the domestic freight task. Therefore, in the short-term, we can expect to see a continued shift towards fuel-efficient and low emission vehicles, with increased use of electric-powered and hybrid vehicles for short-haul transport in urban areas.
Tesla is due to begin production on the automaker’s electric truck, Tesla Semi, in 2019. They have already secured another major buyer in Albertsons Companies, one of the largest foods and drug retailers in the US. Prices of these electric trucks will range between 150 - 200 thousand dollars that range between 300-miles and 500-miles. Upon comparison, performance advantages in terms of speed, a 20% decrease in the cost of operation and less vehicle maintenance are just a few of the benefits promised by electric vehicles (EV).
In addition, EV manufactures SEA Electric and Daimler, already have trucks in testing and operation. These vehicles have a limited range, suiting them for intra-city delivery.
Truck manufacturing companies Daimler, Volvo and Peterbilt are leading the charge in the development of the first commercially viable autonomous truck. Back in 2015, Daimler took the first step: obtaining a licence for road use in the US State of Nevada.
The Daimler Freightliner Inspiration Truck used a ‘Highway Pilot’ system to semi-autonomously relieve the strain on truck drivers faced with long hauls. Of course, the shift from semi-autonomous vehicles to fully-autonomous, unmanned vehicles will not be overnight.
Current automatic breaking, speed control and lane sensing technology available today are giving us a taste of what a truly autonomous vehicle could be like. So, as companies develops this technology further, we can expect that, this time in 25 years, unmanned trucks will be redefining the transport and logistics industry.
The freight industry's major markets span the entire Australian economy. That’s why efficient road freight transport is integral to the country’s economic performance. As the population grows at rapid pace, so too will the need for quicker, safer and more accurate transport and logistics services.
Embracing technological change is the only way companies will be able to meet these demands. Drones, EVs and Autonomous Vehicles are some future transport technologies that are guiding the way. Those operators who first adopt and successfully implement these efficiencies on a large scale will be well-placed to service Australia’s increasing freight task as the next 25 years unfold.
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