Be sure to identify and take into account features unique to each state when designing and deploying ITS technology projects across multiple states.

Experience from technical integration of commercial vehicle safety and fitness data in the eastern United States.

Date Posted

Evaluation of the I-95 Commercial Vehicle Operations Roadside Safety and Safer Data Mailbox Field Operational Tests

Summary Information

In 1997, the U.S. Department of Transportation initiated a Field Operational Test (FOT) to evaluate the performance, costs, and benefits of the Safety and Fitness Electronic Record (SAFER) Data Mailbox (SDM) system. Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia participated in the FOT. The SDM system is a real-time data exchange system that enables roadside enforcement staff to submit commercial vehicle inspection results to a centralized database (SAFER). Roadside staff can also obtain prior inspection reports from other locations, including out of state, in order to identify carriers violating out-of-service (OOS) orders. The FOT was divided into two phases. In Phase 1, SDM provided the capability to send electronic inspection reports from the roadside to the national SAFER database immediately after an inspection is performed. Phase 2 tested the ability to retrieve past inspection results on specific vehicles.

Although the FOT was officially completed by the end of January 1999, most states planned to expand the deployment of SDM and related technologies after the test was completed. Because all of the states participating in SDM were members of the I-95 Corridor Coalition, it was agreed to continue the deployment of SDM under the I-95 FOT program (FOT 7). The Coalition's FOT 7, which focused on roadside safety enforcement technologies, included six eastern states: Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. This lesson is based on the evaluation of both projects: the original FOT and its continuation under the auspices of the I-95 Corridor Coalition's FOT 7.

The use of the databases and human interfaces, developed as part of the FOT projects, varied significantly among the participating states. A survey of commercial vehicle inspectors in late 1999 found very high use of various databases and systems in Connecticut and Rhode Island but lower use in New York, Massachusetts, and Maryland. Much of the variation had to do with the technological and institutional environment within each state. This experience provides several suggestions for deployers of ITS systems that cut across multiple states:

  • Be sure to account for differences in the technological support systems among the states. In the deployment of the SDM the level of wireless communication services available in each state was particularly important. Smaller coastal states like Delaware, Connecticut, and Rhode Island generally had cellular digital packet data (CDPD) services available statewide, while larger, inland states like New York and Pennsylvania often lacked such coverage in large portions of their state. Furthermore, alternative analog services available in these areas were expensive and not reliable. Unfortunately, the technical consultant to the SDM project made the initial assumption that CDPD coverage would be available to almost all areas of the participating states, which turned out to be incorrect.
  • Technical staffing support was another important difference among the states. Successful adoption of the SAFER and other roadside systems in Connecticut was linked to the assignment of a full-time, in-house expert to the process of technical maintenance and support of these systems. Such staffing support was not available in some of the other states.
  • Be sure to account for differences in work practices and the working environment in each state. The experience, training, and work practices of motor vehicle inspectors varied among the states with a significant effect on SDM deployment. For instance, the location where the inspections are carried out can affect the type of equipment deployed as well as the way in which the equipment is used. Inspections in Connecticut and Maryland tend to be conducted at fixed scale sites. Conversely, most of the inspections conducted in the other states are at non-fixed scale sites or at the roadside. At a fixed-scale facility, the computer may be connected to a permanent phone line whereas at mobile locations wireless communications are employed. The use of rest areas as locations for inspections in most of the states means that the inspectors' vehicles become their offices -- not only when they are making stops in motion, but also when they are working a full shift in one place. Thus, the nature of the vehicle and how usable the equipment is in the close- and mobile environment of the vehicle is a significant issue.
  • Inspectors' use of the several programs and databases associated with commercial vehicle safety inspections varies somewhat with the scope of their jurisdiction. Inspectors of the Maryland Transportation Authority are not sworn law officers, and thus the Transportation Authority inspectors do not use Commercial Driver License Information System (CDLIS) in conjunction with their vehicle inspections. On the other hand, inspectors in Connecticut's Department of Motor Vehicles are officers with full police powers in situations originating with a traffic or inspection stop. Consequently, they regularly use CDLIS during an inspection.
  • Be sure to account for state differences in the commercial vehicle operating environment. Every state has a unique operating environment for commercial vehicles that will need to be considered when designing and deploying CVISN (Commercial Vehicle Information Systems and Networks) technologies intended to be integrated with out-of-state systems. For instance, during the design and deployment of SDM it became apparent that New York faced some significant challenges that other states did not encounter. New York is substantially larger and more geographically differentiated than the other states, except Pennsylvania. New York has a border with Canada, meaning that information related to provincial addresses is more important there than in states such as Connecticut or Maryland. New York’s large cities result in greater statewide complexity of routes and commercial traffic as well as a wider diversity of local and regional trucking companies. Its large geographic area also means that a very large number of inspectors use the systems. Additionally, a significant percent of the carriers in the state operate on an intrastate basis only and are not represented in the U.S. Department of Transportation Inspection Selection System (ISS) database.

Although the benefits of SDM were not conclusive in this early deployment, the evaluation strongly suggested this technology could save time for roadside inspectors and improve the speed and accuracy of data reporting. Moreover, inspectors perceived that using more current and accurate inspection data, as provided by computer-based inspection technologies, helped them in many ways: targeting their inspection efforts better, finding recent out-of-service orders more readily, and spotting patterns in motor carrier violations more easily. In the long run these benefits are expected to improve transportation safety, mobility, and productivity.

Evaluation of the I-95 Commercial Vehicle Operations Roadside Safety and Safer Data Mailbox Field Operational Tests

Evaluation of the I-95 Commercial Vehicle Operations Roadside Safety and Safer Data Mailbox Field Operational Tests
Source Publication Date
John Orban (Battelle), Steve Naber (Battelle), Nancy Coburn (Battelle), Ben Pierce (Battelle), Edward Fekpe (Battelle), Hugh Clark (CJI Research Corp.), Michael Williamson (Cambridge Systematics)
ITS Joint Program Office, USDOT

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