Technology can help alleviate choke points for truck traffic
By Aaron Huff
All motorists bear the burden of traffic congestion, but the trucking industry also is sideswiped with much of the financial costs. Bottlenecks on the nation’s highways cost about $19 billion per year in fuel, wages and equipment use, according to the American Trucking Associations.
Congestion only will get worse. The last highway and transit law expired in October 2009, and federal aid to states has been sustained through a series of short-term extensions. Changes also are looming to the hours-of-service rule; the current proposal would increase congestion by reducing drivers’ available daily driving time to 10 hours from the current limit of 11. A national population north of 308 million and growing only exacerbates the problem.
Amid the constraints on existing and future highway capacity, the U.S. Department of Transportation continues to explore technologies that would improve the efficiency and safety of transportation. In some cases, implementing the new technology is as slow as laying down concrete and asphalt; in other cases, the rollout is proceeding at a rapid pace.
One of the most practical methods for easing congestion is for shippers and receivers to move pickup-and-delivery schedules to off-hours. Even minor adjustments can produce enough time savings for carriers to provide customers with financial incentives to force a change.
The New York DOT recently worked with a group of stakeholders and research partners to implement an Off-Hour Truck Delivery Pilot program. Funded by USDOT, the program ran from late 2009 through 2010 and focused on encouraging businesses to accept off-hour shipments through financial incentives and strategies to make the process easier.
Shipper participants in the New York metropolitan area agreed to shift their delivery windows to between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. As a result of this and other changes, participating carriers were able to increase travel speeds between deliveries by 50 percent.
A project now under development could offer a solution to both motor carrier safety and traffic delays by actually increasing the frequency of roadside inspections. At first glance, this may seem like an oxymoron, but the feat is possible by using wireless technology to inspect vehicles in motion.
Wireless roadside inspections could be a win-win situation.
The concept of the Wireless Roadside Inspection (WRI) is simple: The vehicle wirelessly transmits a safety data message set to a roadside reader or law enforcement officer. The message may be used for real-time enforcement and to update carrier and driver safety assessments.
Although WRI may seem like an invasion of privacy, the benefits are impossible to ignore, as truck numbers and mileages continue to grow each year while roadside safety inspection resources remain constant.
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