Understanding freight

Freight volume data

Infrastructure operators, transport companies and logistics experts deliver about 4 billion tonnes of goods across Australia, according to the Transport and Infrastructure Council [PDF]. The National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy estimates that’s about 163 tonnes of freight for every person—more than a blue whale weighs.

Freight deliveries are a major part of city life—for example, in Melbourne, about 15,000 tonnes of food is delivered every day. So it’s no wonder (based on Australian Government estimates) the freight and logistics sector makes up about 8.6% of Australia’s GDP.

Understanding freight

Freight volume data

Infrastructure operators, transport companies and logistics experts deliver about 4 billion tonnes of goods across Australia, according to the Transport and Infrastructure Council [PDF]. The National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy estimates that’s about 163 tonnes of freight for every person—more than a blue whale weighs.

Freight deliveries are a major part of city life—for example, in Melbourne, about 15,000 tonnes of food is delivered every day. So it’s no wonder (based on Australian Government estimates) the freight and logistics sector makes up about 8.6% of Australia’s GDP.

Carrying a nation

4 billion

tonnes of goods carried
across Australia each year

163 tonnes

average freight volume carried for every person in Australia each year

8.6% GDP

contributed by the freight
and logistics sector

Weight icon

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.

domestic freight data

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

Online shopping during pandemic restrictions

During 2020, with a national lockdown followed by various restrictions across states, territories and cities, the way we shopped changed dramatically.

Australia Post reported 9 million Australian households shopped online in 2020, ordering $50.46B of goods—a whopping 57% increase on our 2019 online shopping spend ($32.1B).

As a toll-road company, understanding and planning for new mobility trends is essential to our business. So, during the pandemic-related restrictions during 2020 and 2021, Transurban surveyed thousands of people across Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane on how they were travelling (or not) and how they expected to travel in the future.

As part of this research, we also asked about people’s online shopping habits. And even after the pandemic-related restrictions lifted, Australians (and Americans—we surveyed people in our US markets also) are shopping online more often.

53%

are shopping more online now than before COVID-19 (38% same, 3% less)

60%

of women are shopping more online, compared to 47% of men

freight volumes increase

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.

Truck

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 [PDF].

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 [PDF].

road and rail freight

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.

Sources: Transport and Infrastructure Council [PDF]

Adapting to future demand 

60%

projected freight demand
increase by 2040

Source: Transport and Infrastructure Council [PDF]


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.

6,000 trucks

NorthConnex has shifted
6,000 trucks off local roads each day

9,000 trucks

The West Gate Tunnel is expected to shift 9,000 trucks off local roads each day

Heavy vehicle - road freight

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.