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

The challenge

Agricultural transport costs are high

[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’]

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.

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 can 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 covering almost all Australian agricultural logistics.

CSIRO recently applied TraNSIT to inform the Federal Government’s $100 million Northern Australia Beef Roads Programme and maximise transport cost savings in beef supply chains across the north.

We are currently applying TraNSIT to broader Australia-wide agriculture transport, comprising more than 25 commodities, as part of the Government’s Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper.

The tool currently accommodates 142 million tonnes of agricultural transport and over 5 million vehicle movements and 15,000 rail trips per year. This includes the transportation of cattle as well as grains, dairy, poultry, rice, cotton, pigs, sugar, horticulture crops and stock feed. Forestry and sheep will be added in the near future. The tool considers transport from farms to storage, feedlots, processing, export ports, as well as domestic supply chains to distribution centers and retailers.

TraNSIT works by analysing every possible combination of transport routes and modes (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 the 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 is used to map the truck movements of cattle and more than 95 per cent of agriculture transport Australia-wide including grains, cotton, pigs, rice, dairy, stock feed and horticulture.

The results

Applying TraNSIT to improve infrastructure

TraNSIT has been used to analyse various possible infrastructure projects for the beef industry, including the ones described below:

Upgrading the entire Buntine Highway and Duncan Road from the Victoria Highway to Halls Creek in the Northern Territory

A number of cattle properties are situated in this area and the road is a popular cattle route to Darwin. If upgraded this current rough road would save $183,584 per year or $5.39 per head. In this case, the upgrade of the Buntine Highway would also reduce cattle truck movements along the Great Northern Highway-the only sealed road link between the Northern Territory and northern Western Australia.

Map showing the Buntine Highway and sections considered for upgrade.

Changes in vehicle numbers along the Buntine Highway after the upgrade.

Upgrade corridor between Roma to Toowoomba to allow triple road train access

Triple road train or Type 2 access from Roma to Toowoomba is estimated to save a total of $4.9 million per year in transport costs or $1.24 per head.

The Warrego Highway between Roma and Toowoomba (See map below) is approximately 340 km in length and currently limited to Type 1 vehicle access, excluding a small section of the highway at Macalister which is B-Double access. This section is expected to take five hours to travel over with a Type 1 vehicle, costing $1,224. This segment of highway is a critical section in the broader cattle transport network, used to transport nearly 4 million cattle per year, or about 35,000 trailers. For optimal movements based on the current vehicle access limitations, each route requires the use of more than one class of vehicle. Upgrading this section of highway to Type 2 class would save thousands of hours in travel time and distance per annum.

Map of Warrego highway from Roma to Toowoomba to accommodate Type 2 vehicles

Upgrade of Warrego Highway from Roma to Toowoomba to accommodate Type 2 vehicles.

Further applications of TraNSIT include:

  • testing potential outcomes for changes in regulation: driver fatigue, animal regulation, biosecurity
  • upgrading of transport infrastructure to increase accessibility towards the wet season
  • optimising transport routes across supply chains for plantation harvests
  • upgrade of road sections and bridges to allow higher productivity vehicles
  • sealing or widening of roads segments
  • improvements to rail track infrastructure
  • new road links, bypasses or freight hubs
  • capacity for industry organisations to optimise their own supply chains
  • using TraNSIT as a predicative tool in regard to road conditions and weather forecasts
  • forecasting future freight flows under different production and climate scenarios
  • agriculture logistics in developing countries.

Application to Northern Australia Beef Roads Programme report April 2016

Download the final reports

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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