Five technologies that will drive your freight forward faster


08 May 2018

GHD: With the freight task set to double over the next fifteen years in New South Wales alone, how can technology be used to manage the uplift in demand, enhance the customer experience, and increase operational efficiency?

Here are five emerging technologies to keep an eye on:


The next bandwidth boost for mobile telecommunications has the potential to disrupt shipping, port terminals, manual handling, warehousing and maintenance by freeing up and speeding up the communications experience through the Internet of Things.

Singtel Optus will begin rolling out a 5G fixed network in early 2019 following successful trials with speeds 15 times faster than current technologies. The company recently launched an outdoor trial for 5G New Radio and showcased the technology at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, including trials of its mobile network.

Telstra is also forging ahead with the launch of its 5G Innovation Centre on the Gold Coast, and Australia’s first test of 5G in a moving vehicle. The telco too will offer its first services in 2019.

GHD is already involved in assisting clients with assessing the impact of 5G on their communications future. Colin Dominish, GHD’s Sydney Market Leader Transport, states, “Clients are only just realising the benefits this new technology can bring to their business, and yet it is almost upon us. The time to think about it is now.”


This technology has the potential to enable global container carriers to create a universal, standardised ledger system with much more efficient processes. A new consortium called the Blockchain in Transport Alliance (BiTA) is working to apply blockchain to facilitate the process of recording transactions and tracking assets in a business network. As a standards organisation, BiTA aims to create a common framework to spur the development of blockchain applications for logistics management, asset tracking, transaction processing and more. Matching shippers with carriers is just one of the problems blockchain could solve.

Big data analytics

Information about what freight needs to go where already exists in multiple different systems and forms. Big data aggregators are preparing to disrupt the industry by bringing all that data together with online options for enhancing efficiencies. For instance, reuse and triangulation of empty containers can be assessed in comparison to the cost of return to parks, enabling the right decisions to be made for their next trip. Big data has the potential to link more varied loads, equipment, timing, and supply-demand across all geographical locations, regardless of industry.

For example, Uber Freight Australia pairs up trucking companies, including independent operators, with loads that need to be hauled from one place to another. The app looks a lot like the main Uber app, but it’s targeted towards vetted and approved drivers, who can browse for nearby available loads, see destination information, distance required and payment upfront and then tap to book. This can streamline something that used to take hours of back and forth negotiation via phone or other communication, putting it in a simple workflow with confirmation of job acceptance and rates paid within a few seconds.

GHD has recently assisted a state government organisation ensure its spatial data library was a single point of truth across a complex project. This included the management and maintenance of all data, data versioning and document control for this multi-year project. The analysis pointed to better ways to enhance where road and rail networks converged to enable enhanced freight productivity by upgrading the sites where they met.

Micah Clark, GHD’s Sydney Market Leader Rail, says, “Using technology to provide that single point of truth will help provide users with reliability assurance, enhancing multimodal optimisation across supply chains”.

Delivery drones

Amazon has already launched the idea of a “drone highway”, and the first phase of New York’s 50-mile long drone test corridor took place in September 2017 at Griffiss International Airport in Rome, New York.

AERO Token, an Ethereum-based blockchain technology, enables and easily facilitates the consent of property owners for low-altitude drone flight over private property, potentially paving the way for drone highway infrastructure within the US. Governments in Australia are looking at the role that drones could play in “final mile” deliveries of cargo, where ordinarily delivery vehicles have to battle congested roads.

Road management and systems

Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) and other transport management systems, along with increased regulations of heavy vehicle speed and road use, are already being rolled out in a number of Australian cities to enhance road productivity and increase safety.

GHD was recently engaged to undertake a review of traffic management practice in an Australian state capital, including ITS systems used on the network. We made recommendations for improvements to network management approaches, including the need for planning and strategy development to inform an operational framework.

These systems are the forerunners of how increased automation will transform the road network. For example, Peloton Technology, a developer of connected and automated vehicle systems for US and global freight carriers, conducted a live demonstration of driver-assistive truck platooning in Michigan in November 2017.

The freight industry is one that is often out of sight and out of mind, but its services are essential to our economy and our personal lives. Its future is taking shape today, with both existing players and new market entrants using technology to bridge the gap between our constantly growing demand for freight and our constrained infrastructure.

GHD is sponsoring the Committee for Economic Development Australia (CEDA) NSW Transport Series again in 2018. Join Colin, Micah and the GHD team at the upcoming “Drivers, Demand and Disruption in Freight” event 12 pm- 2pm on Friday 25 May to hear how freight is currently being disrupted by technology in Australia and around the world.




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