It’s amazing. Just a few days ago I was driving home, thinking that they never have adverts for freight trains – I just saw one, QT transport or something. What a co-incidence! Or maybe Unilever just bought them out. Of course there is a reason I noticed the absence of the ads. As you can probably tell from the rest of my blog, my mind often drifts into various topics and transport is one of those that I have been contemplating. With the dangers of road trains, efficiencies of rail, increasing road congestion and talk surrounding the environment (let’s focus on the pollution for a change and not just carbon), it’s a wonder that there is no tactical push to consolidate to rail.
Of course we can’t have rail going down every street – that’s where trucks come in. However, Australia has an extensive rail network which is perfect for intercity and interstate transport (I acknowledge that sea freight is also more applicable for interstate as well for larger items). So why do we use trucks in such situations? Why are truck drivers sent on long continuous hours behind the wheel away from their families, when there’s an alternative? These are all questions which I’m sure have a wide spectrum of answers, ranging from monopolies in the truck logistics medium and perceived convenience for customers to government regulation and leadership in these matters. Knowing the answers to these questions will help us fix the problem.
Lets consider one reason being the familiarity of the truck medium. You see trucks everywhere, you share the road with them, and understand how they operate – they’re like your car but bigger. They’re always clean, new looking full of colour and they advertise their company. On the other hand, you never really see trains, of course that’s because that’s because rail and roads are rarely laid side by side. The ones you do see are old and it’s difficult for the general public and smaller business to appreciate how they operate. People think of the constraints of a trains timetable, unfamiliarity and unacceptability with loading and of course they don’t come to your door (well the non-magic ones that is). So there is generally an inaccessibility of trains, especially to the SMEs, and this is something which could be addressed with integration of rail companies with truck companies – truck deliveries to train loading points.
I’ll conclude. Clearly there also need to be financial benefits for the customer. Surely rail is the more economical option, but with the more familiar truck industry taking away a bulk of business away, economies of scale cannot be successfully achieved. In this regard, it would require Government incentives and support to move a State/Nation toward rail and then reap the savings.