The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) maintains all interstate, primary, and secondary roads in 93 of Virginia's 95 counties. Snow removal and ice control activities are of special concern in urban counties since they slow traffic on an already congested highway system and adversely affect a large part of the population.
VDOT instituted a pilot automatic vehicle location (AVL) system to attempt to improve the management of operations and communications during emergencies. AVL is a technology that locates vehicles using a global positioning system (GPS), monitors vehicle activity, transmits vehicle location and activity information to a remote site, and displays the information on geo-referenced maps. As part of the pilot project, VDOT installed GPS units in 80 trucks. The pilot project extended over three winters, from 1997 through 2000.
The purpose of the project was to evaluate the AVL system's effect on (1) the administration of snow removal and ice control contract forces, (2) the provision of information concerning road conditions, and (3) the management of snow removal and ice control activities. The system tracked vehicles to an acceptable degree of accuracy. However, due to operational and institutional issues, system problems, and mild winters during the study, no financially quantifiable savings could be determined.
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