Rural Tailgates: 5 Hot Tips For Importing to Remote Australia

If you are importing to a remote destination in Australia and want to learn the impact this will have on your normal shipping process then look no further!

This guide will help you understand the ins and outs of rural shipping and will provide you with comprehensive insights into rural tailgates.

1. Determine if your location is rural

The first step when importing into a remote area in Australia is to understand whether the location is classed as rural. The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources has defined the process for classifying rural postcodes for the purpose of sea container deliveries.

rural area

This nationally consistent approach contributes to the department’s ability to remain in line with current land use trends as Australian metropolitan areas expand into rural locations. The process only applies to rural postcodes that:

  • are adjacent to a metropolitan area, or a port that is determined under the Biosecurity Act 2015 to be a first point of entry into Australia
  • do not have a council land zoning classification that relates to farming, forestry, primary production or identifies the area as national parks, nature reserves or waterways.

Rural postcodes in Australia

Your first step should be to visit the postcode classification page of the department’s website and see if the regional delivery address is classed as either of the below:

  • metropolitan
  • rural
  • split (part metropolitan, part rural)

2. Understand how your shipment is affected

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources has stringent measures surrounding container deliveries to rural locations in Australia. Sea containers are targeted as they can carry pests or unwanted diseases into a remote location and destroy Australian agriculture. The department has outlined its regulations using the Biosecurity Import Conditions System (BICON) on its website. This source also provides useful information regarding all imports into Australia and what products are permitted entry.

If you are shipping via air freight or LCL (Loose Container Load) measures around inspection and container treatment at a tailgate level do not apply. What you should, however, be aware of is additional costs delivering to a rural postcode in Australia over a metro area.

If your goods are shipped as a full container load (FCL) to a rural area your shipment will be subject to a rural tailgate inspection at the least. Hot tip 3 will provide you with all you need to know about this process.

3. Know about rural tailgates

Rural Tailgates should be your biggest consideration when importing full containers into remote Australia. If your delivery point is classed as rural or part rural, your container will require a rural tailgate inspection prior to delivery.

A rural tailgate inspection involves directing containers to an approved arrangement (AA) site, inspecting all external surfaces of the container before opening the doors and checking for biosecurity risks including signs of:

  • pests
  • plant material
  • non-compliant packaging

The inspection itself will introduce an additional charge but should any signs of plant material or pests be evident you may also need to pay for the washing or treatment of the container prior to delivery. Watch the video below for a better understanding of this process.

Rural Tailgate Costs

Inspection charges can usually be quoted to you prior to shipping but treatment or washing costs are passed on once the shipment undergoes inspection. An overview of possible fees to expect is listed below. Please note, however, each rate will be dependent on your individual shipment and are subject to vary from this guide.

  • Tailgate Inspection Charge

The Tailgate inspection charge is the cost to physically inspect your container at a quarantine-approved premises. The charges for this can range from $120 – $200 per container depending on location and service provider.

  • Cartage Via Tailgate

As it is a requirement for your goods to be inspected, your cargo will now need to travel via an AQIS inspection location for the inspection to take place. This travel will be an additional cost to your cartage rate to deliver the container from the port directly to the site. Normally inspection locations are not too far from the port so you should factor in an additional $125 – $175 for this.

  • Quarantine Charge & Wash Fees

Problem with your cargo? If quarantine determines that your container or the cargo is a bio-security risk, your goods will need to be treated prior to delivery.  At best this could be simply washing the container prior to release, at worst this could involve complete fumigation of the contents of your container. The charges for this can vary significantly from $200 for a wash to $600 for fumigation. To avoid these charges ensure your container and contents are handled correctly by your shipper at the origin.

Container under Rural Tailgate Quarantine
Container under Rural Tailgate Quarantine

4. Consider Delivery Options

With a remote location, you should always consider the different options for delivery.  For air or LCL cargo, it is likely your goods will be delivered on a courier network. Your freight will be handled several times en route to the final destination as cartage providers will often use a combination of services to fulfill deliveries to remote areas.

For FCL shipments you have a few options:

Container Delivery – Live Unload

This may be the most attractive option. Your goods can be delivered by sideloader (dropped on the ground for unloading) or by a standard trailer (the site will need a crane for offloading or a delivery ramp).

Sideloader for container offloading and Container loading ramp

The container of course will need to go through the rural tailgate process prior to delivery and you should also consider the “free time” allocated to unload. Usually, you will be given 45 minutes or 1 hour to unload and any time thereafter will be chargeable. This initial hour is often referred to as your “free time”. It is best to weigh up how long your unloading process takes, although in rural locations, paying a penalty for free time will often be cheaper than paying for a container drop and return.

Another thing to consider when delivering the container direct to a site is the number of FREE DAYS you have to keep the container before detention kicks in. Often shipping lines will give you 7 days from the first day of availability at the wharf to empty the container and return it to the port. Any days thereafter can be expensive.

If your goods will be traveling via the railhead to your rural location, this often impacts the timeframe and a request for more Free Time from the shipping line should be considered. In some circumstances, 10, 14 and even 21 days free time with containers can be granted.

Container Delivery – Drop and Return

A less popular method for delivering to rural locations. A drop and return means the container is delivered to the site (after a successful tailgate inspection) and then the driver returns 1-3 days later to collect the empty container.

Depending on where your site is located this can be a costly option for deliveries to remote Australia. If you can imagine this would involve sending a driver 400- 1200km for rural delivery, unloading the container and sending the driver back to the metro area with an empty vehicle. Perhaps two days later the goods would be emptied and you would request the driver to return to collect the empty container. Once again he/she has to travel another 400-1200km one way empty to return and collect your cargo. You should expect to pay at least double the price of a live unload if you choose this option and you will certainly need to look at extending Free Days with the shipping line before committing to this delivery method.

unloading container trucks at warehouse

Container Unpack – Loose Delivery

Your final option for delivery to a remote location in Australia is to unpack the cargo at local premises and deliver by truck.

The positive of choosing the container unpack option includes; avoiding rural tailgate and potential detention fees should you keep the container beyond the Free Time. However, the container unpack itself, and the subsequent delivery by road, can be costly. It is always worth comparing prices when considering a container unpack solution.

5. Prepare Additional Budget

The reality of shipping to rural destinations in Australia is that additional costs will be involved. The best way to ensure you do not incur any nasty financial surprises is to obtain rates prior to organising your shipment.

Your freight forwarder will be able to quote the cost of rural tailgates as well as remote delivery solutions prior to your cargo arriving. Allowing an additional $500 per container should protect you in case of washing or treatment fees. If you think you may exceed your free time on your container, budget at least $200 per day thereafter.

Other useful resources on rural tailgates:

Last Tips

Get Assistance and Plan Ahead

Your freight forwarder is the most suitable person to guide you through remote deliveries. The more prepared you are prior to arranging your shipment the better equipped you will be to deal with the nuances that come with working in regional Australia.

Request a Free Quote or call us on 1300 227 461

Have any comments or unanswered questions regarding Australian regional shipments or rural tailgates? Pop them in the comment box below! 

Test Your Knowledge 

Australian rural tailgates quiz

What are rural tailgates?

Correct! Wrong!

Only Full Container Loads (FCL) are subject to rural tailgate measures.

Correct! Wrong!

LCL (Loose Container Load) or air freight measures around inspection and container treatment at a tailgate level DO NOT apply.

If your delivery point is classed as part rural, your container Does Not require a rural tailgate inspection prior to delivery.

Correct! Wrong!

Rural or part rural areas DO require tailgate inspection.

Only the exterior of the containers are checked at the AQIS inspection location

Correct! Wrong!

Not only the exterior but also the interior of the container, the cargo and the packaging are inspected.

If plant material or pests are evident, the container has to go under:

Please select 2 correct answers

Select all that apply.
Show hint
Correct! Wrong!

As inspections in certain rural areas are mandatory, they are free of cost for the importer.

Correct! Wrong!

Inspection charges can usually be quoted to you prior to shipping but treatment or washing costs are passed on once the shipment undergoes inspection.

The most cost-effective way to deliver the cargo from the port to the inspection area is:

Correct! Wrong!

Paying a penalty for free time will often be cheaper than paying for a container drop and return (a.k.a paying extra for the time the truck has to wait until your cargo is unloaded).

The average amount of free days you have to keep the container at the wharf before detention kicks in is:

Correct! Wrong!

Often shipping lines will give you 7 days from the first day of availability at the wharf to empty the container and return it to the port.

How much should you expect to budget in case your cargo presents biosecurity risks?

Correct! Wrong!

In addition to the treatment, always be mindful of the remote delivery costs.

Rural postcodes that DO NOT have a council land zoning classification that relates to farming, forestry or primary production:

Correct! Wrong!

Rural Tailgate Quiz
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