The sheer size of Australia means that the distances involved in getting produce to market are typically far bigger than they are for agricultural concerns in most other countries across the globe. For example, some cattle is transported up to 2,500 km from farm to processing plant, which is a long way in anyone’s book. While efforts are being made to reduce these distances by analysing supply chains across the country, there will always be a need for reliable, long-distance trucks in Australia’s agriculture industry, a fact that farmers and retail organisations are beginning to appreciate more and more as time goes by. There was a time when trains were the preferred method of transportation for large grain farmers and livestock farmers alike but rising costs have led many agricultural companies to return to the road in order to save both time and money.
Shortage of Trucks at Harvest Times
The importance of trucks to grain producers in particular is underlined by the sharp increase in demand for grain silos this year, which is partly due to a shortage of trucks at harvest time. Faced with a long wait until they can find haulage companies with the trucks to take their produce to market, grain farmers are storing more of their crops locally, a trend which in turn is leading to a shortage of available silos as manufacturers struggle to keep apace with demand.
While barges ferrying grain from coastal terminals to ships anchored offshore may be the answer for the export market served by South Australia’s farmers, in Western Australia, the mighty truck is still the mainstay of agricultural transportation. Gathering crops from farms spread over millions of hectares in the south-west corner of the state, the massive road-trains transport their valuable cargo to the coast, from where it is shipped across the globe. Around $3 billion of wheat, $1 billion of barley and $800 million of canola is exported from Western Australia annually and much of this is transported to the waiting ships by large trucks travelling along the state highways and byways.
Road Improvements to Facilitate Truck Movements
State governments are allocating funds for the purposes of upgrading local roads and bridges, in order to make sure that food trucks can continue to reach their destinations without encountering any unexpected difficulties. In Victoria, for example, a $25 million fund is being used for this very purpose. This public acknowledgement of the importance of trucks to Australian agriculture is heart-warming for individual drivers and large haulage companies alike.
Truck Hire Solutions
If trucks remain in short supply in Western Australia and elsewhere, it is possible that some farmers will return to the do-it-yourself grain trucking approach that was popular in 2011 in South Australia. Hiring trucks in WA and other parts of the country could enable farmers to sidestep issues with limited transportation and get their crops to market before they spoil. Whether working with local haulage companies or hiring their own trucks, farmers will of course need the services of experienced truck drivers to ensure their cargo arrives safely at its intended destination. This is great news for all those drivers with the necessary qualifications and experience to take advantage of the increased demand for their services.
Driving the Australian Economy
When you consider the fact that virtually every single product you find for sale in local supermarkets has been transported by truck from its point of origin, you can begin to grasp the enormity of the contribution that heavy goods vehicles make to the Australian economy on an annual basis. The revenue generated by the trucking industry in Australia amounts to tens of billions of dollars every year and much of this revenue comes from the transportation of agricultural products, for both the domestic and export markets. 11% of the 500,000 + trucks registered in the country are based in Western Australia but not all of their business is concerned with agriculture of course. The mining and construction industries are big contributors to the state’s economy too and both industries use truckloads of trucks, if you will excuse the pun! However, the mining industry in particular follows a boom/bust pattern that makes it a less reliable source of revenue for the state than agriculture.
The Future of Agricultural Transportation in WA
The Department of Transport of the Government of Western Australia has a Regional Freight Transport Network Plan that includes a programme of continual upgrades and improvements to local transport infrastructure. This plan aims to ensure that the state enjoys an effective freight network well into the future, serving important local industries such as agriculture, manufacturing, retail, and resources. The planned improvements to state highways will facilitate the movement of grain and other crops by road for many years to come, giving farmers a much needed choice when the cost of other transportation options rises beyond reasonable levels. Without the competition provided by the trucking industry in WA, it is likely that rail costs, for example, would quickly spiral out of control. Even if this were not the case, the simple fact of the matter is that Western Australian agriculture needs all of the current transportation capacity that local haulage firms have to offer and more.
In addition to improving state highways, the government plan aims to ensure that remote areas remain connected to the main network by roads that are suitable for large trucks and other heavy goods vehicles. The minor and major roads can be thought of as the veins and arteries of the state’s economy, with the trucks that move along them as blood vessels transporting vital cargoes. The only difference between these road-going vessels and those that inhabit the human bloodstream is that their vital, life-giving cargo consists of grain and livestock rather than oxygen! However, make no mistake about it: the successful delivery of agricultural produce across the state and indeed the whole of Australia, is as vital to the continuing survival of the local population as the oxygen contained in the air that we breathe.