TRAnsport Network Strategic Investment Tool (TRANSIT)

CSIRO's TRANSIT tool analyses transport and logistics options for agriculture to identify potential cost savings.

The Challenge

Agricultural transport costs are high

Livestock logistics: We modelled livestock transport routes across northern Australia to help the industry save costs and become more efficient. This work has now been extended to the whole of Australia and other supply chains.

Show transcript

[Music plays, CSIRO logo and text appears: ‘Livestock Logistics Transport efficiency across northern Australia]

[Image appears of an Australian landscape and camera pans over cattle yards in the centre and then camera zooms in on the cattle]

Narrator:  Known as one of the most efficient producers of cattle in the world Australia boasts more livestock than people with some 28.5 million in cattle alone. 

[Text appears: ‘$12 billion industry’]

The value of this for Australia is $12 billion in off farm meat. 

[Camera zooms in on the legs of the cattle running down the yards and then zooms out to show the whole of the cattle running in the yards]

But the wide open spaces that make this country so suited to cattle production also present one of the biggest challenges to an efficient production system. 

[Image changes to show cars and a cattle truck driving along the highway]

[Image changes back to the cattle in the yards]

It’s the tyranny of distance.  In northern Australian more than half the cattle travel upwards of 1,000 km between production, processing and markets. 

[Text appears ‘Transport up to 40% of costs’]

This makes up to 40% of the final market price placing a sizable dent in profit and productivity across the entire value chain.

[Image changes to show a CSIRO researcher working on a computer and then the camera zooms in on the Dinmore Abattoir Livestock Logistic simulation page on the computer screen]

 Presented with this challenge CSIRO set out to evaluate the entire production system for livestock in northern Australia, home to 90% of the country’s live cattle export.

[Image changes to show a researcher writing on a whiteboard and then the camera zooms in on the formulas written on the whiteboard]

[Image changes to show a cattle feedlot and the camera pans over the feedlot]

To do this, researchers simulated more than 1.5 million vehicle movements between 50,000 enterprises over five years using some 88,000 point to point travel routes.

[Image changes to show a satellite image of the world globe and the camera zooms in on the transport networks in Northern Australia and text appears: ‘Transport Network Strategic Investment Tool, TraNSIT’]

This information was then modelled via a tool CSIRO developed know as the Transport Network Strategic Investment Tool or TraNSIT. 

[Text appears: ‘Infrastructure development’]

But it’s more than Google maps for beef.  It also helps to identify opportunities for infrastructure development.

[Image changes to show a large cattle feedlot and the camera pans over the landscape]

Currently most beef cattle in northern Australia need to be transported to the east coast for processing at various facilities or ports.

[Image changes to show a satellite image of the world globe and the camera zooms in on the colour coded transport networks in Northern Australia]

TRANSIT models these movements to show the high volume of traffic coming across the north as you can see here.  If you were to develop new processing or feed lot facilities in the region closer to the cattle TRANSIT can then model the change in transport flow.  As you can see now the intensity of transport on these roads has been eased. 

[Image changes to show a cattle truck and text appears: ‘Animal welfare, Road safety, Reduced emissions’]

The two hypothetical facilities in this scenario could save the industry millions in transport costs.  There are spin off benefits too including animal welfare, reduced driver fatigue and the impact on road safety and reduced carbon emissions. 

[Text appears: ‘Policy development’]

TRANSIT is also able to contribute to policy development. 

[Image changes to show a man pushing cattle up a ramp onto a truck]

Currently Queensland biosecurity requirements mean that trucks taking cattle to abattoirs need to be treated when going from tick infested zones into tick free zones.

[Image changes to show the satellite image of northern Queensland with red tick free and green tick prone zones.  Text appears: ‘Up to $2.3 million savings]

You can see these movements here.  TRANSIT has already shown that trucks transporting cattle from the tick prone zone highlighted in red will take longer journeys to stay within that zone to avoid the stoppage time associated with tick treatment.  If biosecurity policies didn’t apply to cattle being transported to abattoirs the TRANSIT model predicts that trucks would take more direct routes which could save up to $2.3 million in transport costs from South East Queensland alone.

[Image changes to show a dark brown cow and then images flash through of fawn coloured cattle and then crops]

While the focus for TRANSIT to date has been Northern Australia, it can be applied at a national scale and not just for cattle but other commodities like grains, fibre and horticulture, or general freight, transport, even infrastructure development. 

[Image changes to show a satellite image of the world globe and zooms in on Australia and then on the transport routes in Northern Australia.  Text appears: ‘Music: “Soaring Together” by Anima’]

In other words TRANSIT is a decision support tool modelling a better tomorrow.

[CSIRO Australia Logo appears on the screen with text: ‘Big ideas start here, www.csiro.au’]

Hide transcript

Agriculture supply chains in Australia are often characterised by transport distances of over 1000 km between production, processing and markets, with transport costs accounting for up to 40 per cent of the market price.

While infrastructure investment and policy changes will reduce costs across agricultural enterprises, it has not been possible to evaluate the whole system to ensure that infrastructure investment maximises whole of industry productivity.

Our Response

Modelling the most cost-effective transport options

CSIRO developed TRANSIT to analyse both small and large scale investments in the agriculture supply chain, with current applications for all northern livestock logistics.

TRANSIT works by analysing every possible combination of transport routes and methods (road and rail) and determining those that optimise vehicle movements between enterprises in the agriculture supply chain.

It incorporates factors such as road/rail condition, temporary closures and diversions and availability of supporting facilities such as truck stops and holding yards. It can be used to manage logistics costs for individual enterprises or whole industries.

TRANSIT has been used to map movements of cattle trucks Australia-wide

Current initiatives

As part of the implementation of the Northern Australia White Paper, CSIRO is applying TRANSIT to inform the $100 million Northern Australia Beef Roads Fund and maximise transport cost savings in beef supply chains across the north.

CSIRO is also extending TRANSIT to broader Australian agriculture transport as part of the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper. It will comprise of about 25 commodities or over 95 per cent of Australia's agriculture transport volume, including grains, cotton, dairy, rice, sheep, poultry, pigs, sugar and horticulture crops.

The Results

Applying TRANSIT to improve infrastucture

TRANSIT has been used to analyse various possible infrastructure projects, including the ones described here:

Carnarvon/Gregory highway upgrade

Upgrade of 510 km Carnarvon/Gregory highway between Clermont and Roma and removal of tick clearing for cattle transported to abattoir

This allows large road trains to use this north-south inland route, substantially reducing transport costs.

For the estimated 320,000 cattle moved along this route per year, combined with an additional 120,000 cattle that could have taken this route to the abattoir if no tick clearing requirements, this would have saved $15.1 million per year (or a 19 per cent reduction) in livestock transport costs alone including $460,000 in detours to avoid tick clearing.

Such savings will be higher by considering other heavy vehicle users.

New north Queensland abattoir

TRANSIT identified the optimal catchment of properties and average transport savings if an abattoir (processing 400 head per day) was built at Hughenden.

The new abattoir would reduce total transport costs from approximately $4.3 million to $1.5 million per year.

Further applications of TRANSIT include:

  • optimising the use and location of road versus rail transport
  • introducing or consolidating storage facilities (e.g. grain silos) at optimal locations
  • testing potential outcomes for changes in policy: alignment of driver and animal welfare stops; truck limitations for road classes
  • upgrading of transport infrastructure to increase accessibility towards the wet season
  • upgrade of road sections and bridges to allow higher productivity
  • improvements to rail track infrastructure
  • new road links or bypasses
  • new, upgrading or consolidation of production, storage, feedlotting and processing facilities for small to large scale enterprises.

Application to Northern Australia Beef Roads Programme report April 2016

This initiative is part of the Australian Government's Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper, the government's plan for stronger farmers and a stronger economy.

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