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New $16.5m data hub could help decide rest area locations

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We’re not sure yet just why it takes $16.5m of taxpayers’ money to build a data website, but the government does want us to know it may help inform where they build future rest areas for truckies.

In the insights section of the costly new site, creators have built a 3D overview of where a sample of freight trucks are stopping at rest areas on the road network, and what facilities can be found at each spot.

Two sources of telematics data were combined to create this visualisation. A Transport Certification Australia (TCA) sample of 6700 trucks from July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020, and a Bureau of Infrastructure and Transport Research Economics (BITRE) sample of 1500 trucks from January 2018 to April 2021.

What exactly did they learn from all this?

With 4899 stops, the Kyeamba Gap rest area, roughly halfway between Sydney and Melbourne is the most heavily used on the Hume.

The rest area which is most heavily used overall, in this sample of trucks, is just west of Toowoomba. The rest area is called ‘1km E Charlton’ and has 11,201 stops of a median duration of 20 minutes.

The site shows a 3D overview of where a sample of freight trucks are stopping at rest areas on the road network.

With a larger truck sample size this kind of visualisation could provide an understanding of patterns and trends that can be used to inform where extra stops, increased capacity or better facilities might be needed, say the hub’s creators.

“It could also be used to understand where existing rest stop infrastructure is not being used to capacity.”

Meanwhile, in a launch media statement released today the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said the hub will be a trusted source of freight data for industry, government and others to improve the efficiency, safety and resilience of the freight sector.

“The hub will highlight important information about traffic volumes, congestion, road condition and rest area usage, to improve road safety for the nation’s freight operators,” the Deputy Prime Minister said.

“This commitment will in turn 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.

“Every Australian, everywhere, every day relies on a truck driver, which is why we need high-quality, easily accessible data to make sure the movement of goods and services is as efficient as possible, especially as Australia’s freight task grows.”

Assistant Minister for Road Safety and Freight Transport Scott Buchholz said industry asked for a congestion metric to assist with their businesses and the Australian Government has delivered this with the website.

“The prototype website is an important first step that shows the hub’s potential as a game-changer for the Australian freight and supply chain industry,” Assistant Minister Buchholz said.

“The website showcases government and industry cooperation on a number of projects and allows users to search for data relevant to their business.

“In new world-leading visualisations, interactive truck telematics maps are publicly available at a national level with insights on congestion in our cities and a national map of truck rest stops.

Toll’s Head of Innovation Peter Carney said the congestion data will give the freight industry, and indeed all road users, a keener understanding of where and when congestion occurs.

“This will enable road users and governments to develop strategies for managing the effects of congestion,” Carney said.

“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.”

The Australian Logistics Council’s Chief Executive Officer Kirk Coningham said data is the new oil and having an integrated National Freight Data Hub is critical to the delivery of the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy.

“The ALC commends the Government on the launch of the prototype website and looks forward to working together on this vital project, to ensure it meets the needs of industry now and into the future,” Coningham said.

The National Freight Data Hub prototype website can be found at datahub.freightaustralia.gov.au.

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