Virtual Gate Technology Used To Conduct Port Terminal Transactions at Off-Site Truck Staging Areas Can Improve Truck Loading and Waiting Times and Reduce Drayage Area Turn Times by 20 Percent Contributing To Benefit-To-Cost Ratios As High as 14.55.

A Feasibility Analysis Examined Experimental Port Efficiency Improvement Strategies for Multiple Port Location Types to Quantify Benefits and Costs.

Date Posted

ITS MARAD Truck Staging Study

Summary Information

As freight imports to the US continue to increase, several US agencies are seeking ways to improve the efficiency of drayage trucking at ports by evaluating the impacts of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), including automation and increased connectivity. The objective of this study was to determine the state of the practice regarding truck staging, including access, queuing, and parking at maritime ports, and to perform an economic feasibility study of automated truck queuing as a technology solution. Four candidate solutions were identified to address truck congestion and queuing issues at port terminals. These solutions were then evaluated under five representative port operation scenarios. The benefit-to-cost (B/C) ratio for each solution and scenario were estimated and quantified in 2017 dollars.


The four solutions chosen for detailed feasibility analyses were: (i) off-site parking and staging, (ii) off-site parking and staging combined with a “virtual gate” where some terminal transaction processes could be done off-site, (iii) automated truck (SAE Level 4, High Driving Automation) in queue, and (iv) automated truck in queue combined with off-site load staging. These solutions were assessed under five representative port operations: (i) a hypothetical “generic port” scenario, (ii) a port in a major urban area serving primarily a local market, (iii) a port in a major urban area with a local and hinterland market, (iv) a port in a minor urban area with a predominantly hinterland market, and (v) an inland port.

The study assessed terminal turn time (the period a drayage truck spends inside the terminal from gate entry to exit) and estimated the benefits and costs for building a new “generic” port with off-site parking and a staging area with a virtual gate. The economic analysis regarded the generic port as the base scenario and then the four other scenarios corresponding to representative ports in actual port environments. The economic analyses were based on parameters documented in the USDOT’s 2018 Benefit-Cost Analysis Guidance for Discretionary Grant Programs.


  • For solution (ii) off-site parking and staging area with a virtual gate, the turn time within the port can be reduced by 20 percent with reductions in waiting and loading times.
  • The following table presents the B/C ratios for each solution scenario and port operation type for three percent amortization rate. The highest score was obtained from the Minor Urban Hinterland location due to the relatively cheap cost of land and reasonable volume whereas the lowest score came from the Major Urban Local. 

Table. Summary of the B/C Ratios for New Technology at Various Port Operation Types

Solution Type Generic Major Urban (Local) Major Urban (Hinterland) Minor Urban (Hinterland) Inland 

Off-Site Parking and Staging


0.72  0.15  0.25  0.79  1.03 

Off-Site Parking and Staging

With a Virtual Gate

5.88 4.97  7.36  14.55  5.53 
Automated Level 4 Trucks in Queue 1.18  1.18  1.18  1.18  1.18 
Automated Level 4 Trucks in Queue with Off-Site Staging 13.33  5.35  6.57  8.65  9.53 
Goal Areas
Results Type