Use the FRATIS system to enable automated communications between multiple stakeholders and improve logistics in the event of traffic delays or changes to wait times at drayage facilities.

Experience from the Los Angeles-Gateway Freight Advanced Traveler Information System (FRATIS) project.

Date Posted

Los Angeles-Gateway Freight Advanced Traveler Information System Demonstration Team Final Report

Summary Information

In 2012, the Federal Highway Administration and Joint Intelligent Transportation Program Office initiated the Freight Advanced Traveler Information System (FRATIS) project as part of the USDOT’s Dynamic Mobility Applications Program. Prototypes deployed in Los Angeles, Dallas/Fort Worth, and South Florida tested software for drayage companies that would improve the operations of those companies in moving containers between intermodal terminals and various inland shipping points. An independent assessment of those prototypes was conducted, in part based on data collected before and during the test period (2014-2015).

The LA-Gateway FRATIS deployment centered around improved communications between trucking companies and intermodal terminals, the application of advanced algorithms to optimize truck routing and deliveries, and the provision of dynamic routing of trucks around congestion. The two primary private-sector participants in the Los Angeles FRATIS demonstration project were Yusen Terminals, Inc. (YTI), a Port of Los Angeles Terminal, and Port Logistics Group (PLG), a regional drayage fleet.

A major component of the project was the employment of a Drayage Optimization Algorithm which allowed for the participants to work together in a way which optimized the PLG truck deliveries and movements based on several key constraints (e.g., time of day, PierPass restrictions, terminal queue status, etc.). The optimization algorithm was applied during the preplanning dispatch stage to 50 trucks and drivers of PLG’s fleet through a TomTom in-vehicle tracking, traveler information and information exchange system. The trucks were then asked to follow the given optimized plan for that day, with hopes of achieving significant reductions of miles traveled, time spent, and fuel usage.

The project team documented key lessons learned, actions, and mitigation strategies throughout the life of the project in order to ensure successful completion of the pilot program and to help ensure the success of follow-on efforts.

Lessons Learned

The lessons below were derived from the LA-Gateway FRATIS project:

Use the FRATIS system to enable automated communications between multiple stakeholders and improve logistics in the event of traffic delays or changes to drayage facility wait times. Prior to the deployment of the FRATIS system, PLG staff could check the status of containers on Web sites and make calls to see which containers have been made available and ready for pick up at a terminal. However, this approach placed additional burden on the back office staff and did not provide real-time updates in the event of changes to status, traffic, wait times, etc. This issue highlights the need for automated, real-time communication not just within individual stakeholder organizations but throughout the entire transportation network.

Integrate the FRATIS system with existing drayage operator order management systems to reduce operator work loads. During the system implementation with PLG, a key challenge was the need for the office operations staff to enter orders into both the FRATIS system as well as TMW, their order management system. This not only doubled the work load on the office staff, but also led to an increase in order entry errors. In order to fully resolve this issue, integration between the FRATIS system and the drayage company’s order management system would provide the best-fit solution. It would be possible in future efforts to utilize web services to fully automate the process and ensure that all relevant order data is exported to FRATIS from the order management system.

Implement effective and targeted user training and retraining during test periods. During the course of the pilot program, the team encountered some initial resistance to technology adoption amongst the participating dispatchers and drivers. Anecdotal evidence showed that drivers who received up front training and used the system for a few days at the beginning were most likely to keep using it in the long term, as it reduced the learning curve and allowed the drivers to realize the benefits of the system, particularly the real-time traffic information and the dynamic routing. Expanded deployments should build on this lesson and provide dispatchers and drivers with more interactive training materials and increased "on-demand" support materials to address questions/concerns.

Gain clear buy-in from the most influential stakeholders at the outset of a deployment (marine terminal operators, large beneficial cargo operators, large drayage operators) to maximize the benefits of a FRATIS deployment. Identifying test user groups that see the value in innovation, are invested in improving the operating environment are critical to the success not just of future FRATIS deployments but of any pilot programs relying on increased connectivity and communication. Some stakeholders were resistant to participate fully or change their business rules even it would ultimately provide a more efficient and effective operating environment. This demonstrated the need for gaining clear buy-in from the most influential stakeholders at the outset of a deployment (marine terminal operators, large beneficial cargo operators, large drayage operators).

Future generations of FRATIS should have a flexible software approach that can be easily integrated into dispatcher operations and should be designed with an architecture that is hardware independent. FRATIS should focus on flexible software and integration approaches and utilize web services, API connectivity and mobile applications. Such systems should also be designed with an architecture that is hardware independent (and not tied to specific vendor systems such as TomTom). For example, if FRATIS is to be expanded in the LA-Gateway region, system deployers cannot afford to tailor a back office software integration with each and every trucking company, and also must be able to integrate with whatever in-vehicle communications platform that the company uses—even cell phones, if that is how the company communicates with drivers.