Opinion

Known Knowns and Unknown Unknowns

known knowns and the unknown unknowns

To quote the former advisor to the President of the United States, Donald Rumsfeld, seems a little odd for a publication which deals with the road transport industry in Australia, but the industry is facing new challenges and in this situation it is a good idea to understand the reality of the industry and assess the known knowns and the unknown unknowns.

In a couple of articles in PowerTorque this year we have reported upon people thinking about how to reduce carbon emissions, not by using the latest tech which doesn’t need fossil fuels, but instead by redesigning our distribution systems to reduce the need for diesel engines to pull loads and trucks around our cities.

In one story we quoted Professor Russell Thompson from the University of Melbourne who has led a study into changing our road transport distribution network. The model which his team created managed to demonstrate that it would be possible to reduce road transport distance travelled by 78 per cent, if our logistics distribution method was radically rationalised.

This is one of several studies which are going on around this issue of how logistics can be changed to improve efficiency and reduce carbon output.

One of the things which is necessary for these kinds of development to take place and prove their worth before they are introduced is to have a great deal of data about what is going on, where and when, on our roads in terms of freight transport.

This is where the latest development from Transport Certification Australia comes into play. The schemes like the TCA’s Road Infrastructure Management (RIM) application and other telematics analytics data collection processes do provide a large amount of data on what freight is going where and when.

This is the kind of data trucking industry needs to enable it to take a step back and look at the big picture of the movement of freight on our roads and take some time to see if there are innovative and effective ways of doing our job much more efficiently. To think outside of the box.

This sounds like it could be thought of as a good idea and would be an effective and efficient way of improving the trucking industry’s carbon footprint. However, any changes would not be simply a matter of rerouting a few trucks and repositioning a few warehouses. Any development along the lines of the system envisaged by Professor Thompson, would require a massive change in the structure and management of road transport in Australia. Any system like the one he proposes would require much more cooperation and a lot less dog-eat-dog competition to provide transport services.

As we know increased competition does bring productivity improvements and that level of competition does keep prices relatively low.

Even with this caveat it’s still seems like it could be a good idea to investigate these kinds of changes to the way road transport is organised, because we have seen that the collection of plenty of data and some smart use of that data can disrupt and change the way on-road tasks are done. We only need to look at something like Uber and other ride sharing apps as an example of getting better productivity and better results at a lower price for the end consumer, using a lot of effective and up-to-date data.

 

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