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The challenge

Solving Australia’s freight and supply chain challenges

[Image appears of an aerial view looking down on trains moving along tracks and the camera pans around and then the image changes to show an aerial view of a highway through a farming area]

Dr Andrew Higgins: Transport infrastructure is essential to moving more than 100 million tonnes of Australian agriculture and forest products from origin to destination per year.

[Image changes to show Dr Andrew Higgins talking to the camera and text appears: Dr Andrew Higgins, CSIRO Research Scientist and TraNSIT Leader]

To help government and industry make informed decisions on infrastructure investment,

[Image changes to show a freight train moving on a track through bushland]

they rely on a comprehensive set of data around supply chains and freight movements.

[Image changes to show Andrew talking to the camera again]

In 2013 CSIRO started the development of the Transport Network Strategic Investment Tool, or TraNSIT as it’s called.

[Image changes to show a map of Australia showing the road freight movements on the map and a list of the commodities on the left and text appears: Annual road freight movements around Australia]

TraNSIT provides the most detailed map of supply chains and freight movements ever produced covering more than 20 million vehicle trips per year in Australia,

[Image changes to show a herd of cattle]

covering more than 100 commodities from agriculture, mining, fuel, through to general freight.

[Image changes to show a close view of cattle’s legs moving through a race, and then the image changes to show an aerial view of penned cattle, and then the image changes to show Andrew talking]

So TraNSIT was originally developed for the livestock industry in Northern Australia before it was extended to all agriculture movements across Australia, covering about 98% of the agricultural sector. It is now extended to all of freight across Australia and is used for many major national infrastructure projects such as the $9 billion inland rail.

[Images move through to show Andrew looking at an Australian map on a computer screen, Andrew talking to the camera, rail freight cars at the docks, and vegetables on a market stall]

The success of TraNSIT in Australia has led to its extension to other countries in South East Asia, particularly Vietnam and Indonesia, really addressing the freight challenges of moving agriculture from production to, to the markets in the urban areas.

[Image changes to show Andrew talking to the camera]

In 2017 the rapidly rising demand for TraNSIT led to the development of TraNSIT Web which is a web based tool that allows industry and government to access key information from TraNSIT on a home computer or office computer without technical expertise.

[Images move through to show Andrew looking at a map of Australia on a computer screen and scrolling over the map, cows penned up, and a mature crop in a paddock]

Being able to analyse Australia’s transport of food and other commodities has never been so important at the click of a button.

[Image changes to show Andrew talking to the camera and then the image changes to show Andrew pointing to an Australian map on a computer screen]

The tool is now helping government reduce costs of transport through more informed infrastructure benefits.

[Image changes to show an aerial view looking down on cars moving along a highway and then the image changes to show Andrew talking to the camera]

This is benefitting farmers, processors, and having other benefits as well too such as improved safety and reduced environmental impacts.

[Image changes to show the CSIRO logo and text appears: CSIRO, Australia’s National Science Agency]

In Australia, transport infrastructure is essential for moving more than 1.5 billion tonnes of freight annually across huge distances.

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In a country as large as Australia, reliable transport infrastructure is essential. More than 1.5 billion tonnes of freight are moved around the country each year. Commodities including food and forest products, fuels, minerals, construction materials and general freight are often transported along complex routes of 1000km or more before reaching their markets. This can be very expensive for producers and manufacturers, and there is high risk of transport disruptions.

Our response

Modelling transport options to reduce costs and improve efficiency and resilience

Infographic showing the stages researchers go through to apply the TraNSIT tool to a project.

Title: How does TraNSIT work

  1. engaging with stakeholders (icon shows two people in silhouette with a though bubble between them)
  2. confirming data requirements (icon shows flow chart with a truck as one end point)
  3. co-developing supply chain resilience interventions (icon shows a line graph with small truck on the Y axis going into larger truck along x axis)
  4. run TraNSIT model (icons shows truck on a computer screen)
  5. produce better supply chain outcomes (icon shows two trucks either side of a curving start-to-finish line)

Since 2012, CSIRO’s Transport Network Strategic Investment Tool (TraNSIT) has been used nationally and internationally to improve supply chain efficiency and help identify options for transport and logistics investment.

Originally developed to reduce the cost of transporting cattle from farms in northern Australia to their domestic and international markets, TraNSIT is a computer model that creates detailed maps of Australia’s supply chains, freight movements and costings. 

For each supply chain path, TraNSIT selects the most cost-effective route that accounts for travel distance and time, vehicle configuration, road conditions, driver fatigue regulations and vehicle decoupling costs. As well these outputs, the models generated by TraNSIT enable national and local governments to direct road and rail investment to the areas where it will have most impact.

More than ten years on from its initial development, TraNSIT now accommodates over 185 commodities, representing more than 25 million truck trips and 200,000 rail trips per annum. More commodities continue to be added. It incorporates information and expert knowledge from over 450 agencies and organisations across Australia.

The tool has been adapted for a range of applications including biosecurity, climate and disaster resilience, tourism, and infrastructure planning and investment. Its has also been used internationally in Indonesia and Vietnam.

TraNSIT has been extended to understand the impact of extreme weather events on our supply chains

More recently, TraNSIT has been extended to understand the impact of extreme weather events on our supply chains. In partnership with the Australian Climate Service (ACS), the tool has supported improved decision making in the face of natural hazards. We have assisted the National Emergency Management Australia (NEMA) in its role as national responder to these disasters. This has reduced the impacts of extreme events on communities.

TraNSIT also has a role to play in longer term planning, and prioritising investment that will improve the resilience of Australia’s supply chains into the future. In partnership with the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts, we analysed 52 key freight routes and 13 rail routes across Australia. This provided a better understanding of the impacts to communities and freight movements from a wide range of disruptions to these freight networks.

CSIRO’s approach to research is a collaborative one. The success of TraNSIT demonstrates how much can be achieved when researchers, industry and government work closely together.

Through the development of our easy-to-use TraNSIT Web and the Supply Chain Benchmarking Dashboard, a wide range of government, community and industry decision makers now have the tools to analyse Australia's supply chains to identify key trends and pinch points for improving freight transport both now and into the future.

The TraNSIT team remains committed to working collaboratively with government and industry and looks forward to further expansion of the tool’s capabilities in coming years in order to meet Australia’s needs.

To view a timeline of TraNSIT and its activities over the past 10 years, view our capability brochure PDF (3 MB).

Aerial view, looking down on northbound Pacific National Queensland intermodal train on the iconic Ayr causeway with its line of Palm trees, as a B-double truck heads south along the Bruce Highway. Image by iStock.

Applications of TraNSIT include:

  • Analysing the impact of road upgrades such as sealing, first/last mile improvements, access to higher-productivity vehicles
  • Informing improvements to rail infrastructure including line upgrades, new freight hubs and integration with road transport
  • Testing the sensitivity of the road and rail network to natural disasters or other disruptions and their impact on freight access to markets
  • Forecasting freight volumes, supply chain dynamics and bottlenecks under future production and climate scenarios
  • Testing regulatory changes such as driver fatigue, road and rail pricing and tolls
  • Addressing supply chain inefficiencies and cross border bottlenecks in Indonesia and Vietnam
  • Estimating the impact of road improvements for the Australian tourism industry
  • Supporting the Australian Government’s resilience initiatives.

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