Thursday, May 30, 2024

Report highlights critical role of road freight in supply chain

In March 2020, Australia faced unprecedented challenges with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, leading to disruptions across various sectors, including road freight supply chains. The fear of scarcity triggered panic buying, stockpiling, and shifts in consumer behaviour, profoundly affecting freight distribution patterns.

Four years on, the Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC) and the National Road Safety Partnership Program (NRSPP) have released a research paper that looks at understanding the dynamics of supply chains during a crisis.

Coronavirus and Road Freight Supply Chains in Australia – Impact and Implications is co-authored by Dr Sarah Jones, one of Australia’s leading experts in heavy vehicle transport safety and Dr Jennifer Rivera-Gonzalez, a Monash University transport planning and road safety professional.

Dr Jones says the research sheds light on the critical role of road freight in maintaining essential supplies and explores the implications of government policies on freight workers and road safety.

“During the first wave of Covid-19, we were faced with the prospect of ‘not having enough’ for the first time since the Second World War,” says Dr Jones. “We witnessed significant disruptions in supply chains, leading to panic buying and a surge in online shopping.”

The research paper delves into the management of road freight and its workers during the crisis, examining the consequences of policy decisions which deemed truck drivers as essential workers. It also raises broader questions about the impact of consumer behaviour shifts and road safety concerns on the road freight sector.

“Road freight has always been critical in Australia because it delivers ‘last mile’ access,” says Dr Rivera-Gonzalez. “It played a crucial role in ensuring the delivery of essential goods during the pandemic, yet its significance remains underexplored.”

“This research provides insight into the challenges faced by the road freight sector, such as the state-based rule-making system when border crossing is essential, and underscores the need for proactive measures to strengthen supply chains in the face of future crises.”

As the world grapples with the ongoing pandemic and potential future crises, the research poses a critical question: Have we learned from the Covid-19 experience?

“We cannot afford to overlook the lessons learned from the Covid-19 pandemic,” says NRSPP Director Jerome Carslake.

“Australia’s reliance on road freight was heightened during the pandemic due to changes in consumption. As we navigate future challenges, it is imperative to leverage this research to enhance the resilience of road freight supply chains and safeguard the well-being of freight workers.”

Find the full report here.

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