Carrying a nation
tonnes of goods carried
across Australia each year
average freight volume carried for every person in Australia each year
contributed by the freight
and logistics sector
How much we’re carrying
Our roads play a vital role in how freight moves around Australia, especially at the beginning and end of freight trips.
Here we explore data that tells the bigger picture of freight in Australia, using data sourced as shown.
What’s carrying freight in Australia
The Australian Infrastructure and Transport Statistics Yearbook 2021 [PDF] reported that rail carries 57% of Australian freight, with road, the second-highest freight carrier, moving 29% of all freight.
During 2020–21, road, rail and coastal shipping freight movements increased (with road increasing the most (up 3.2%), possibly reflecting increased freight demands under the various national and state COVID-19 restrictions.
The data below shows domestic freight (total bulk and non-bulk).
Online shopping during pandemic restrictions
The way we shopped changed dramatically during lockdowns and various restrictions imposed across states, territories and cities in response to COVID-19. And it looks like new habits are here to stay.
Australia Post reported 9.2 million Australian households shopped online in 2021, ordering $62.3B of goods. Overall 73.1% more purchases were made online in 2021 compared to 2019 with the highest growth seen in metro areas.
As a toll-road company, understanding and planning for new mobility trends is essential to our business. So, during the pandemic-related restrictions from 2020 and into early 2022, Transurban surveyed thousands of people across Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane on how they were travelling-including whether they were getting out to the shops or doing their ordering online.
We found, even after the pandemic-related restrictions lifted, Australians (and Americans-we surveyed people in our US markets also) are shopping online more often.
are shopping more online now than before COVID-19 (38% same, 3% less)
of women are shopping more online, compared to 47% of men
Freight demand has been increasing for decades
Pandemic impacts aside, domestic road and rail freight demand has been steadily increasing across Australia for the past 40 years. Australia’s population growth and ongoing urban development have been driving these steady and significant increases in freight volumes.
Keeping on trucking
Australia’s freight volumes are projected to grow by more than 35 per cent between 2018 and 2040, according to the Transport and Infrastructure Council.
The council reports freight volumes are also changing, and urban freight is forecast to increase by about 60 per cent from 2020 to 2040, in line with population growth projections.
The amount of goods moved by freight increased 75 per cent between 2000–01 and 2015–16, according to the Transport and Infrastructure Council.
Road and rail: the load-down
Road transport moves most of the commodities made and used in Australia—food, fuel, household appliances (and whatever deliveries you’re tracking online) will generally reach their destinations by road.
A significant portion of freight moved by rail comprises iron ore and coal from mines in the Pilbara, Central Queensland and the Hunter Valley. Rail freight activity in these areas will decline as resources are extracted.
Adapting to future demand
With freight demands expected to increase significantly over time, Transurban roads will play a key role in how freight travels in the future.
New Transurban tunnels, such as NorthConnex in Sydney (opened in 2020) and the West Gate Tunnel in Melbourne (set to open in 2025), are specifically designed to shift freight traffic from local roads and support more efficient travel for all road users.
NorthConnex has shifted
6,000 trucks off local roads each day
The West Gate Tunnel is expected to shift 9,000 trucks off local roads each day
Transurban roads: heavy lifters
We monitor freight volumes on our roads and this data also provides an indicative picture of freight movements and volumes across wider city and state road networks: particularly as our roads connect with critical transport and service hubs and with other major roads and freight routes.
This chart shows how freight volumes are trending upwards on our roads over time. It also shows how freight volumes are returning to pre-pandemic levels.