Rail freight – how to make it work for you

I am a big fan of utilising the rail network for moving freight. It is efficient, reliable, safe, smooth, professional and has the added benefit of being environmentally responsible.

But, let’s face it, rail doesn’t have the best image. Through the 80s and 90s, rail really didn’t care about their customers. Freight went missing, freight was damaged and rail did what was best for rail. Underinvestment was rife and customer service became non-existent.

That has all changed though. The companies that operate the trains today (generally) do not manage the track. They (generally) do not load freight. They do what they do best – operate locomotives and wagons.922173_608675319162646_1042911263_o

This means that, as a shipper, you deal with freight forwarders who consolidate your smaller consignments and supply containers and local delivery for full loads. Naturally, the benefits are numerous of this approach. Consolidated shipments, where your freight is loaded into a container with other freight, allow you to access the benefits of rail freight without having to fill a container.

The benefits include having access great rates that wouldn’t be available by road; that your freight is in a controlled, secure environment at all times; only having one point of contact – you don’t need to organise a container, at least four transport legs, plus one or more rail operators.

Additionally, we can provide specialised shipping containers that allow us to load your freight that wouldn’t fit through the container doors easily. We can provide flat top, curtain side, open top, pallet wide, high cube or even bulk shipping containers, to suit your requirements. If you need us to place the container on the ground for you too load, we can do this. We can even arrange to leave the trailer overnight, or the container for a month if you need.

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Securing freight in a standard shipping container obviously requires a different approach from a curtainsider. We can provide advice and assistance with this – it need not be daunting.

Understanding where rail freight is available is important. Every capital city, excepting for Canberra is serviced by rail. Many other major centres are also serviced, especially in the Northern Territory and Queensland.

Rail is very much on a resurgence – our national freight task will double in the next 15 years. We don’t have enough truck drivers as it is, let alone the impact on the road network. Inland rail from Melbourne to Brisbane is making progress, which will unlock a great new potential for efficiency and timeliness.

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Most people will not be aware that rail has a greater than 80% market share on freight between the East Coast and Perth. Even TNT use rail on these lanes. If you are using road to send freight to Perth, I sincerely hope you are moving over size machinery.

Applied Logistics has access to all rail freight operators in Australia, including TasRail, as well as service providers in all centres. Enquire now to find out how we can use rail to improve your business.

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The Wet Season – How secure is your supply chain?

Coming into the wet season, I find a lot of customers gambling with their supply chain. Each year our road and rail links get severed by flooding. Each and every year without fail.

The only thing we don’t know is where or when. But we do know the locations most likely to be severely impacted. The Northern Territory and Regional Queensland. Some years are better than others, but without fail it does happen every year. Generally the closure is only for a few days, which is manageable for most businesses, in other years, the damage is catastrophic.

In 2009, there were massive floods in Western Queensland. The company I was working for at the time had multiple road trains stuck between Mitchell and Camooweal. Some were lucky enough just to be trapped. Others were literally swamped. At least two of these units were refrigerated – depending on a finite supply of diesel. Frozen and chiller trailers were prioritised, and the produce loads were left to rot. I can tell you that it was not pleasant cleaning these out a week later. If any of those clients were uninsured, that could have had severe implications for their solvency.

To make matters worse, a 2km stretch of the Barkly Highway was washed away, leaving no alternate road access to the Central and West north of Port Augusta, on the South Australia Coast. Whilst we were able to send trucks via Port Augusta, this meant an extra 1,390kms of running with just a double road train. My company responded with imposing a 57% surcharge on customers requiring this service. We also arranged rail services, again via Adelaide, but this service attracted a 30% surcharge and took 9 days.

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In 2011 during the massive Brisbane and Queensland floods, I was working with Woolworths managing their Brisbane Crossdock Distribution Centre. We struggled to get staff, due to pressing personal issues; We struggled to get freight from Sydney and Melbourne due to flooding in Northern New South Wales and we couldn’t get freight to Central, West and North Queensland due to flooding. We had tried every open road, only to find that they closed before our units arrived. In attempting to send trucks north, via the West we ended up with these units getting chased south into NSW by flood water.

In the end, both Woolworths and Coles were forced to utilise RAAF C17 and C130 aircraft to fly essential groceries to Townsville for distribution.


The question for your business is, what happens if you cannot replenish supplies for two weeks? Can you cope with that? Is it worth holding a little extra critical stock over the wet season, just in case? Can you source product from a different location if required? If you want to explore contingency plans with us, please get in touch, we are only too happy to assist.

Read Elliot’s bio here.

News links:

SMH – Supermarkets enlist big guns to get food to stores

RAAF 2011 Floods Logistics Support

ABC – The Barkley Hwy hit by floods

ABC – NT Govt defensive after Barkly Hwy flood damage

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