Human beings are passively ignorant, not giving thought to something unless we suddenly find ourselves on the inside looking out.  Once something touches our lives or the lives of a loved one, we can suddenly become an expert.  Think Alzheimer’s.

But even when you are tracking your parcel and checking home security on your phone for deliveries prior to Christmas 2023, do you really ever think about the massive freight and logistics system that make your purchases appear at your door or turn up on the shelves of the stores in shopping centres?

We take these things for granted – it’s human nature.

We expect our supermarkets to be fully stocked – including at least half an aisle full of toilet paper in our favourite supermarket  – and our online purchases to be delivered quickly to our doorstep, preferably yesterday! 

So if you are one of the blissfully ignorant, let’s shock you with some figures about the vast industry that truly is Santa, his elves, sleigh and reindeers this time of year.  If you are not ignorant to this, you work in the industry – so share this with someone who is or someone who doesn’t quite understand what you do, what it actually means and how it impacts the lives of so many others!

Each year our infrastructure operators, transport companies and logistics experts deliver about four billion tonnes of goods across Australia – that is 163 tonnes of freight for each living Australian.

In Melbourne, our second largest city and Australia’s leading food and fibre exporter, approximately 15,000 tonnes of food is required to be transported across the city each day.  If that means nothing, imagine 135, thirty-metre adult blue whales swimming up the Yarra!

Food aside, we love to shop with Australians having taken heavy advantage of last month’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday super bargains, pushing Australia Post to its biggest November on record with the domestic delivery of 53.5 million parcels! The term snail mail should never be mentioned again!

Now take a moment and think about the actual process. 

You order online – products that have already been on various journeys as they transition from raw materials to finished goods available for purchase that at some point you saw and thought, “Oh! I really like that!”   

Your purchase is deemed successful after funds have been exchanged and your new must-have summer fashion piece begins its journey to your wardrobe – while hopefully, the credit card statement is still a full month away!

Dispatched from a warehouse or a store in stock, directed through a distribution centre, or more likely two or three, your purchase finally gets to the last stage and you receive your text message or email to say it is coming today!  

This moment – when you get a little excited or quickly try and remember what it is you bought – is called the last mile

Think of it as that space or moment as you walk into a movie theatre or the queue to get into your favourite club, or that moment your Netflix must-see episode is loading.  In actuality, is it the distance between the key freight corridor closest to where you live and the final delivery point, usually your home but also the shelves of a local department store and the aisles of your preferred grocery chain.

But the last (final) mile is usually the biggest hurdle to be overcome and has become increasingly difficult to navigate for our real-life Santas and their teams. 

Road congestion, network issues, restrictions on access, various deadlines preventing 24-hour delivery and access, and the availability of parking and kerbside space in dense residential and commercial areas affect the speed and convenience of delivery in this final leg of your purchase’s journey. 

And after all this, you might not be home to receive it!  And heaven forbid, it does not fit!

The process of getting something from A to B as quickly and as affordably and as safely as possible is essentially the drive behind the massive freight and logistics sector of the supply chain and this industry is an essential component of the Australian economy, accounting for approximately 8.6 per cent of GDP.

This Christmas, take a moment to acknowledge this vast industry as over the past five years, the process of getting something from A to B after getting it from raw materials to a product ready for sale, has experienced unprecedented and compounding disruptions including a global pandemic with all its stops and starts, personal and commercial heartache, extreme weather events, skills shortages and so much more.

And while we are acclimatising to the ever presence of COVID and its variants in our lives, other challenges continue across the globe with new problems to solve and develop solutions to in the pursuit of getting something from A to B and into your hands!

Did you know, there is a lineup of over 100 ships waiting to use the famed Panama Canal

Fuelled by fresh water, this man-made shortcut is suffering from the effects of drought, and ship traffic has been reduced to half its capacity with the oceanic roadblock expected to last until at least the end of our summer, unfortunately in some cases more than tripling the transit time it would usually save.

Depending on what is on those ships, you will feel the effect on some level. 

Closer to home there are other issues governments and organisations are meeting head-on. 

Road transport is the dominant form of freight for the majority of commodities produced and consumed in Australia, but truck driving is a dwindling career choice.  Australian truck drivers are now older than the workforce average.

The average age of a truck driver is 49, up from 43 just two years ago.  One in five working drivers is at retirement age, and less than one in five is aged under 30.

And women make up just 3% of the truck-driving workforce, representing one of the greatest gender imbalances of any occupation but also the potential solution to the issue as well.

But globally, the biggest business problem facing the industry and the human race is emissions.  

81% of overall greenhouse emissions are carbon emissions and businesses are responsible for a lot of it.

In 2023, climate change is fully acknowledged as a business problem and not a corporate social responsibility issue needing publicity but little action.

And thankfully, the world’s biggest and smallest corporations are meeting the challenge head-on. 

Apple, whose products will be under many a tree this Christmas, has committed to making its supply chain carbon neutral by 2030 while Boeing – the real Santa sleigh when you think about it – is developing and testing sustainable aviation fuels, meaning Christmas’ future looks better, especially for the tireless workers of the North Pole and their cohorts likes Frosty The Snowman! 

Hopefully, Christmas arrived successfully at your home in 2023, right down to that odd ingredient you needed for a first-time recipe. 

To all, and especially the people in the freight and logistics industry currently making Santa look good and stress-free, Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones.