Faster, smarter roadways

Xata Corp. (www.xata.com) will add improved digital mapping software to its Xatanet on-demand fleet operations software, to be available in November as part of the Xatanet 4.3 release.

Arsenault Associates (www.arsenault.biz) released Dossier Version 4.6, the latest edition of its maintenance management software. The new version includes hundreds of software upgrades and enhancements, as well as three new modules, including the Dossier Tire Management System.

Transportation Costing Group (www.tcgcis.com) announced Fuel on the Fly, the latest enhancement to its Cost Information System designed to allow motor carriers to adjust fuel costs to reflect specific price levels and better analyze freight profitability.

TransCore (www.transcore.com) introduced CabLink, a 100 percent satellite mobile terminal with next-generation technology for small to mid-sized carriers that need economical options for in-cab communications and sensor-enabled tracking and monitoring of mobile assets.

DriverTech (www.drivertech.com), designers of a Windows XP-embedded onboard computing system, announced the availability of its interface with TMWSuite, an enterprise transportation software system from TMW Systems.

Prophesy Transportation Solutions (www.mile.com) now offers low monthly subscription pricing for bundles of FreightBill Express, a fleet management and accounting software system for small fleets. Pricing starts at $99 per month.

Navman Wireless North America (www.navmanwireless.com) said that Donlen Telematics, a subsidiary of fleet leasing company Donlen Corp., will offer Navman’s mobile fleet management solutions to its customers.

Commercial vehicle traffic will increase significantly over the coming years. Numerous studies say the increase will strain highway capacity and adversely affect safety, mobility and the environment, and that the capacity of the nation’s highway system will continue to fall short of demand.

Faced with this growing challenge, federal agencies are working actively to deploy intelligent transportation systems (ITS) in a relatively short timeframe. The goal is to speed the flow of commercial traffic, reduce inefficiency and, ultimately, reduce accidents. Many ITS initiatives are designed to aid all highway users, but several are specific to commercial trucks.

To date, weigh station bypass is the most widespread and popular application of intelligent transportation technology as it applies specifically to commercial operations. The majority of weigh stations with this technology use PrePass, a technology-driven system administered by a public-private partnership called HELP Inc. Today, about 422,000 trucks are equipped with PrePass, according to the PrePass website (www.prepass.com). The other bypass system is Norpass, which is used in a handful of states.

PrePass and Norpass use transponders on trucks that emit radio signals in response to stationary roadside readers. If the truck belongs to a motor carrier that is deemed by a database to be sufficiently safe and compliant, the driver receives a signal in the truck to bypass the weigh station. Otherwise, the driver gets a signal to pull off for an actual inspection. By allowing drivers to maintain road speed, weigh station bypass saves valuable time and fuel.

Faster inspections
The popularity and success of weigh station bypass has encouraged the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to lay the groundwork for wireless roadside inspections (WRI), which would capture information from a vehicle’s onboard computers and feed it into software systems that inspectors would use to determine automatically if the vehicle is in compliance with state and federal regulations.

WRI represents a move toward frequent and automatic electronic inspections. Weigh-in-motion systems have enabled the agency to record 177 million weigh inspections annually with only a 0.29 percent violation rate. WRI could give FMCSA and its state partners even greater confidence in the safety and compliance of commercial vehicles while allowing safe and compliant operations the same time and fuel economy benefits afforded to users of today’s weigh station bypass systems.

FMCSA is examining different deployment scenarios for the technology needed for WRI, as well as the information that should be included in the packet of data to be exchanged. The most likely information exchanged would be driver and vehicle identification, hours of service, vehicle performance and brake-related data, says Jeff Loftus, transportation specialist with FMCSA’s office of research and technology.

FMCSA records 3 million truck inspections annually. With the exception of load securement, most of the key vehicle and operator conditions that trigger roadside inspections and out-of-service violations already lend themselves to onboard electronic monitoring and diagnostic assessment, Loftus says.

The concept of WRI is simple: The vehicle transmits a safety data message set wirelessly to a roadside reader or law enforcement officer. The message, which may be used for real-time enforcement, also may be used to update carrier and driver safety assessments.

In the near term (three to five years), FMCSA plans to have vehicle, driver and carrier ID as part of a WRI program, Loftus says; the ID could trigger the carrier’s safety rating or the driver’s CDL status. In the mid-term (five to 10 years), the agency hopes to add driver logs, and in the long term (10 to 15 years) to add vehicle performance measures to detect a problem with the braking system, for example.

Truck parking
A promising ITS application now in development called smart truck parking will allow truck drivers to see available parking and even reserve parking spots in advance. FMCSA currently is testing several different sensor-based systems, Loftus says. In the second phase of the agency’s SmartPark program, scheduled to begin next year, the agency will deploy the sensors in parking areas along major truck corridors and soon after add the capability for truckers to reserve parking.

Work on smart truck parking already has started in California along Interstate 5 and other major corridors through a public-private partnership between the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), commercial map database provider Navteq and ParkingCarma.

Starting next year, truck drivers and fleets will be able to begin reserving truck parking in California through ParkingCarma.com, says Rick Warren, the company’s chief executive officer.

In addition to using public sources of information to locate available truck parking, some commercial truck routing and navigation systems are beginning to incorporate truck parking into their routing algorithms. Navigo, an in-cab navigation service by Maptuit, uses a hybrid combination of onboard and server-based technologies.

In addition to having access to a standard set of points of interest such as truck stops and customer locations, the company plans to offer drivers the ability to search for rest areas. Maptuit uses a commercial map database from Navteq. Even so, there are a large number of rest areas that Navteq doesn’t recognize, says Luke Wachtel, business development manager; for example, certain Wal-Mart stores will allow truckers to park overnight.

As drivers identify certain areas where they can park, drivers can start feeding Maptuit the data to share across its user community, Wachtel says.

Carriers and public agencies are interested in migrating from a collection of information from disparate systems to a nationally interoperable model; one standardized onboard system could communicate with all available applications.

“Better interoperability would allow everyone to motor seamlessly throughout the U.S. and would particularly benefit truckers who are faced with many different systems today,” says Dick Schnacke, vice president of TransCore, a global manufacturer of RFID technology. “This is the goal of many, but would probably require federal intervention to achieve.”