Use an interoperable transponder to assure maximum benefits to both the private and public sector.

The Washington State and British Columbia experience in using transponders as part of the IMTC ITS CVO – Border Crossing Deployment.

Date Posted

Washington State-British Columbia: International Mobility and Trade Corridor (IMTC)

Summary Information

The International Mobility and Trade Corridor (IMTC) Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Commercial Vehicle Operation (CVO) – Border Crossing Deployment Project was undertaken in 1997 by the Washington State Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, and Transport Canada. The goal of the bi-national, multiyear border freight ITS deployment program was to deploy ITS technologies to improve border crossing operations between Washington, USA and British Columbia, Canada.

This deployment provided an opportunity to examine the feasibility of integrating Automatic Vehicle Identification (AVI), Weigh-In-Motion (WIM), and electronic container seals with the U.S. Customs Service’s Automated Manifest System (AMS). The integrated system was designed to coordinate shipper, motor carrier, and international governmental agency operations and processes seamlessly through a single internet-based information system. Upon completion of the physical infrastructure (i.e., additional lanes and revamped customs booth areas), the coordinated processes and technologies were expected to relieve some of the congestion at border crossing facilities, improve the efficiency of enforcement agencies, and reduce the delay that trucks encounter as they wait to cross the U.S. - Canadian border.

Lessons Learned

Interoperable transponders not only provide a variety of benefits to both the private and public sector but would also alleviate motor carriers from having to buy multiple transponders to equip their trucks. This is especially important as transponder-based services expand in the International Mobility and Trade Corridor (IMTC). Interoperability of transponders would allow the State of Washington and the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) to successfully administer the regional trucking fleets and improve truck safety by sharing credentialing information electronically.

There was uniformity in transponders used for the bi-national WIM communications based on the CVISN system. However, multiple protocols were in use for Dedicated Short Range Communication (DSRC) in the IMTC region. AVI transponders in the IMTC region are using four different DSRC protocols. At the national level, the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) is promoting the development of a uniform, national DSRC standard. While a single regional DSRC standard is ideal and should be an ultimate goal, it will take some time to materialize. This is due to the variety of corridor applications ranging from CVO clearance, to transit tracking, to intermodal cargo logistics applications, and potentially electronic toll collection.

The IMTC ITS CVO – Border Crossing Deployment Evaluation provided a number of suggestions that should be helpful to stakeholders planning to implement a transponder-based bi-national or multi-jurisdictional ITS project.

  • Realize that deployments of ITS can provide a variety of positive outcomes that include improved operations, security, safety, and environmental quality. The benefit-cost analysis conducted for this system provided overwhelming justification for the deployment. The evaluation estimated the greatest benefits were accrued through: travel time savings at the border crossing and weigh stations; expedited processing due to increased travel times savings; and enhanced commercial vehicle safety (by enabling enforcement focus on high-risk or unknown operators). Other important benefits, but lesser in magnitude, were accrued through: administrative cost savings via internet-based system for the exchange of shipping documentation among authorized users; and environmental health benefits obtained by reducing overall truck idling time through automated screening and clearance processes.
  • Encourage freight carriers to intall electronic transporders enabling faster border crossing. The evaluation estimated commercial vehicle travel time savings, and administrative costs savings. The IMTC CVO- border crossing deployment proved that AVI transponders (and their use in conjunction with WIM) could be used to monitor the legal compliance of trucks. These transponders can allow eligible carriers to bypass weigh stations within the IMTC corridor, in the U.S. and Canada. The cross-border bypass provides significant time savings for private motor carriers, as well as resource savings for regulatory personnel. In addition, the evaluation showed that because transponder-equipped trucks may bypass border crossing queues, the border crossing times for non-transponder equipped trucks were shown to be reduced.
  • Be cognizant that the rate of return is dependent on the rate of participation. Similar ITS deployments at regular roadside weigh stations may require a longer time period for payback of investment and are more participation rate sensitive than border crossing deployments. The evaluation estimated that ITS – CVO border crossing deployments could realize a payback on investment the first year of deployment because of high volume of transponder equipped trucks. The estimated payback periods for the weigh station ITS deployments may be longer because of the greater initial cost requirements for the weigh stations and the benefits dependent only upon time savings realized by transponder-equipped trucks.
  • Consider using a single transponder. Obviously, buying one transponder costs less than two or more. Private sector transponder costs (at the time of the IMTC deployment evaluation) amounted to $50 per transponder, with the transponder having a service life of 5 years. The various transponder standards that exist in the marketplace make achieving the goal of having the majority of the motor carrier industry invest in, and register, a single in-vehicle transponder difficult. The main issue in transponder interoperability is that the lack of uniformity in DSRC standards.

While the utility of transponder use was proven by this deployment, there are still issues within the IMTC region (and elsewhere in North America) with the use of dedicated short-range communication (DSRC) transponders. The deployment showed the operational efficiencies that could be realized through transponder use, yet the current issues that exist in North America regarding transponder interoperability affect the level of deployment of similar transponder systems.

Transponders in general provide benefits of travel time savings at the border crossing and weigh stations, and expedited processing. Benefits of lesser magnitude include: administrative cost savings in the exchange of shipping documentation among authorized users and environmental health benefits by reducing overall truck idling time.