Federal Govt unveils National Freight Data Hub prototype

Freight Data Hub Australian Government

Australian freight carriers will be able to track critical supply chains and major trucking routes crisscrossing the country through a new data visualisation tool, with the Federal Government unveiling the first incarnation of its National Freight Data Hub.

Users of the web-based Data Hub, still in prototype stage, will have access to timely information on traffic volumes, road congestion and road conditions, as well as rest area usage across the country.

Data on specific commodity imports and exports, container counts at major Australian ports, and even the number of trucks using arterial and metropolitan roads are also collated and mapped within the Hub.

Data is displayed using geo-spatial visualisation tools, with the Hub mixing “new and existing freight data”.

Telematics data from trucks will capture times and locations to help track estimated speed and congestion on national roads.

“The telematics dataset is from a small sample of trucks and its accuracy will improve with more contributing vehicles.”

National Freight Data Hub

Tracking traffic congestion on the National Freight Data Hub

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said the Hub will help to support the “day-to-day operations of the transport industry, provide enhanced freight data across all supply chains and enable a data-driven approach for future strategic planning and investment.”

The Government acknowledged the challenges hitherto of collating freight data from various centralised and federated source points from across the country, which it notes is “fragmented” and makes it “difficult to compare one dataset with another”.

“This can prevent the full value of the data from being realised, for example, if information for one state cannot be compared with another,” it noted within the Hub.

The Hub, it added, would bring together freight datasets that had previously been “incompatible”.

To accompany the data visualisation Hub, a prototype data catalogue has also been built to provide a “curated entry point to Australian freight data”. The catalogue uses the open-source Comprehensive Knowledge Archive Network (CKAN) software, which provides tools for publishing, sharing, finding and using data.

The Bureau of Infrastructure and Transport Research Economics (BITRE) and the Transport Certification Australia (TCA) were key data sources for the Hub, with telematics and container data supplied to BITRE and the TCA by industry, and the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which has supplied import and export data.

State and territory governments provided truck count, road closure, road roughness and rest areas data.

In addition to the initial $5.2 million provided in 2019 Budget to settle the design of the Hub, the Government has committed another $16.5 million from its latest Budget to develop the Hub over the next few years.

The Government said the Hub will have three core objectives: to improve strategic planning for infrastructure and transport network investment; improve the capture and sharing of freight data to support day to day operations; and evaluate how the freight system is performing and what actions can be taken to improve it.

Industry has roundly praised the Hub, noting the value of having a clearer understanding of congestion and causes of supply chain roadblocks.

“This will enable road users and governments to develop strategies for managing the effects of congestion,” said Peter Carney, Toll’s Head of Innovation.

“The maps will assist drivers in planning their routes, because knowing where not to drive is as important as knowing where to drive.

“Collaborating with the National Freight Data Hub has been an exciting project and we look forward to implementing changes on the ground using the data.”

NSW Ports’ chief executive officer Marika Calfas said the prototype website is an important first step towards a comprehensive National Freight Data Hub.

“A fully developed National Freight Data Hub, with data across all supply chains, will assist with decision-making and evidence led-investments to enhance the efficiency and resilience of Australia’s freight supply chains and to quantify investment outcomes,” Calfas said.