It is unlikely that there isn't a person, company or cause across Australia that hasn't been affected by the delays to freight that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused.
Whether it be the local mechanic struggling to get in parts, the bare shelves at department stores or the delays in the postal system, the pressures of the pandemic have spanned far and wide.
But with every problem, there is always an opportunity for improvement and a new Curtin University-led program is working with governments and industry to inform efforts to speed up the movement of freight on our cities' roads.
Currently, freight vehicles are effectively invisible to the traffic management system with transport agencies largely relying on periodic surveys to get a glimpse of how they move around our streets.
Given the contribution to the nation's gross domestic product, there is a real need to find ways to increase the efficiency of freight movement while improving overall traffic congestion, especially with those recent disruptions to global supply chains from COVID-19.
From this month, a proof-of-concept project begins tracking the near-live movements of a fleet of freight vehicles via a new digital roadmap, the FreightSync Roadmap, developed over the last 18 months, in conjunction with transport agencies and industry partners across Australia.
The new project with Australia's Sustainable Built Environment National Research Centre (SBEnrc) seeks to offer faster deliveries and ease traffic congestion.
The project seeks to show that data can be securely shared between private freight operators and government transport agencies to ultimately ease traffic congestion, improve road safety and enhance the efficiency of freight movement.
The breakthrough in the design of the project is the use of a trusted 'Freight Observatory' that collects near real-time data via strict consent agreements given concerns from freight operators as to how this data may be used.
There has never been a more important time for greater efficiencies in freight movements given the nation's fast-growing cities and the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now is the time for this important data to move to a digital platform that allows near real-time data sharing in a bid to inform a range of efforts that improve the transport system for all users and speed up the timing of freight deliveries.
- Dr Charlie Hargroves, from the Curtin University Sustainability Policy Institute