Plan for ongoing logistical support, including the designation of a project champion.
Virginia's experience implementing a pilot automatic vehicle location (AVL) system in an urban winter maintenance operations setting.
Made Public Date
06/15/2006

990

Northern Virginia NOVA
Virginia
United States
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Identifier
2006-00260

Lessons Learned From a Pilot Project of an Automatic Vehicle Location System in an Urban Winter Maintenance Operations Setting

Background

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.

Lessons Learned

This study covers VDOT's experience in implementing a pilot automatic vehicle location (AVL) system in attempt to improve the management of operations and communications during emergencies. One finding discussed within this study is that ongoing logistical support for an AVL system should be a high priority because AVL is an expensive, sophisticated investment that requires considerable attention.

  • Update the system as necessary: Because the system was dormant between snowstorms, the inaction spawned problems. Because no one was assigned responsibility for periodically powering up the equipment and checking the network linkages and connectivity, every snowstorm yielded problems in just turning on the system. IP addresses expired, deleting vehicles from the tracking list; VDOT network passwords expired; unannounced configuration changes were not noticed until operational use was attempted; and IVU units requiring repair were left waiting for pick up, thus unavailable for use in storms. These technical difficulties with the AVL system contributed to low support of the system and a less than successful first and second year of the pilot.
  • Designate a person in charge of the system: Throughout most of its three-year pilot, the AVL project lacked a manager with time and authority to focus on this project and to address and fix problems. Although there are many people and organizations using and affected by the AVL pilot program, it was essentially an orphan. Appointment of residency personnel as champions of the project appears to have been a turning point in increased acceptance of the system. As residency management became more involved in the implementation of the system, they became the system's champion. This led to more involvement of the District Information Technology Section, which resulted in increased technical support for the system. By the third winter season, because of the new champion, improvements in the functionality of the pilot AVL system and increased IT support, field personnel and managers became more comfortable and confident with the use of the system.

Based on these experiences and observations, the report concluded that the following are needed to have a successful and productive implementation of an AVL system: (1) developed preventive maintenance procedures and personnel assigned responsibility for AVL system operations; (2) a project champion with the authority to draw on necessary resources and shepherd the system through implementation; (3) information technology personnel to support the operation of the system; and (4) trained field personnel who fully understand and support the system.

Lessons Learned From a Pilot Project of an Automatic Vehicle Location System in an Urban Winter Maintenance Operations Setting

Lessons Learned From a Pilot Project of an Automatic Vehicle Location System in an Urban Winter Maintenance Operations Setting
Publication Sort Date
04/01/2002
Author
Daniel S. Roosevelt, Robert A. Hanson, Virginia Transportation Research Council; William M. Campenni, Stuart AVL Technologies, LLC
Publisher
Virginia Department of Transportation and the University of Virginia

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