The future of road transport in Australia

Posted on: 7 March 2018

In a country as vast as Australia, the economy would come to a stand still without road transport. In fact, the most recent figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show over two billion tonnes of freight are moved on Australia's roads annually.

A lot has changed since the first horses and carts ambled down dirt tracks to deliver the mail, with environmental challenges and significant advances in technology impacting the road freight industry today. So what does the future hold for road freight in Australia?

Environmental changes

In recent years freight vehicles have grown in size as fuel efficient articulated vehicles replace rigid trucks. The rising cost of fuel and increased environmental regulations have heavily influenced the industry, with many of the major players adopting fuel efficient practices and making commitments to adopt sustainable forms of energy as they become economically viable.

Online commerce

E-commerce is also having a significant effect on road transport, as more and more established businesses launch e-commerce arms of activity, and many small operators emerge onto the scene. The widespread increase in internet activity over the past two decades has also affected the provision of couriering and freight services, as operators such as Uber are entering the field of transport and logistics.

Driverless vehicles

Perhaps the most significant shift in the Australian road freight landscape is the advent of driverless technology, with driverless trucks already being trialed on Australian roads and in Australian mines. The self-driving vehicles of the future won't simply drive, they'll coordinate their movements to avoid traffic congestion and adjust their speed to catch green lights. Driverless trucks will use radar to capture data in difficult conditions like rain, fog and dust, and ultrasonic sensors to detect objects in the vehicle's path—both human and constructed. Their autopilot features will allow them to change lanes, move seamlessly on and off freeways, park and even be summoned to a depot.

Driverless road freight isn't just a neat trick on the path to a robotic future, driverless heavy vehicles will allow the movement of huge amounts of freight - with the potential to move up to 200 tonnes of freight in a convoy of driverless vehicles.

If this terrifies you, you're not alone. Most people view driverless technology with a mixture of fascination and deep apprehension. Yet, the vast majority of traffic accidents are caused by human error, and as infrastructure improves driverless road transport will offer the safest alternative.

The future of Australian road transport holds some big changes in store. Keep your eyes on this very exciting space.