Measuring Transport's Contribution to the Economy—Transport Satellite Account

Lead agencies


Enduring question 4.3

What are the main sources, types and quantities of economic benefits from transport?

Gap addressed

Measuring transport's contribution to the Australian economy


The total contribution of transport activity to the Australian economy is presently not well understood. While about half of all transport activity is undertaken on a 'hire-and- reward' basis, and therefore measured as part of the road transport industry within the National Accounts, about half of all activity is undertaken 'in-house' (for example, mining companies transport of iron ore in the Pilbara, WA and many retailers operate their own fleet of delivery vehicles), and therefore allocated to non-transport sectors1. This represents a well-recognised, key gap in our understanding of the transport sector, and results in a significant underestimation of the potential total productivity gains that may be achieved from transport policy and infrastructure investment decisions. It also limits the effectiveness of economic evaluations of alternative transport and infrastructure policy and regulatory options, including the likely impacts on other sectors.

A Transport Satellite Account is the means by which the full physical and monetary contribution of all transport activity, across all sectors of the economy, can be accounted for in a single consistent framework. It is an adjunct to, and entirely consistent with, the National Accounts, but "presents a more complete picture of transport activity within the national accounting framework by explicitly measuring transport services in all industries, not just the transport industry".2

This would make it possible to measure transport activity undertaken by all industries, including their costs, capital expenditure, income, employment, hours worked, as well as volume data such as vehicle stocks and even emissions.


Develop a Transport Satellite Account.

Project update

At its meeting of 22 September 2017, the Transport and Infrastructure Senior Official's Committee (TISOC) agreed to fund the ABS to develop an Experimental Transport Satellite Account (TrSA)–Phase 1 of a proposed two-stage project. (Phase 2, which would involve production of a full Transport Satellite Account, and include a transport industry survey in 2019–20, is contingent on successful compilation of Phase 1 and subsequent and further TISOC approval.)

On 31 October 2018, the ABS released an experimental TrSA which was produced in collaboration with BITRE.

The experimental TrSA shows that total transport activity contributed $122.3 billion to the Australian economy in 2015–16. The construction industry was the largest user of transport outside of the transport industry, responsible for $18.7 billion of transport use. This was followed by the agriculture, forestry and fishing industry, reporting $9.8 billion, and mining, at $9.2 billion.

Related publication

  • ABS (2018), 5270.0–Australian Transport Economic Account: An Experimental Transport Satellite Account, 2010–11 to 2015–16, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra
  • ABS (2011), 5269.0.55.001–Information Paper: A Future Australian Transport Satellite Account: ABS Views, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra.

1 As a further example, only around a third of total road vehicle capital and operating expenditure in 2010–11 was made by the transport, postal and warehousing sector ABS (2011), 9269.0–Business Transport Activity, Australia, 2010–11, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra.

2 ABS (2011), 5269.0.55.001–Information Paper: A Future Australian Transport Satellite Account: ABS Views, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra.