Using wireless communications and GPS tracking can result in benefit-cost ratios ranging from 1.0:1 to 7.2:1 addressing HAZMAT safety and security issues according to analyses in the HAZMAT FOT Final Synthesis.
FMCSA researchers assessed technologies to improve the productivity, efficiency, and safety of HAZMAT Carriers in the United States.
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Hazardous Materials Safety and Security Technology Field Operational Test Volume II: Evaluation Final Report Synthesis

Summary Information

This HAZMAT Safety and Security Technology field operational test was conducted working towards the goals of improving homeland security protection of truck-based hazardous materials shipments. This field operational test was designed to test the ability of commercially available technology systems to reduce vulnerabilities in HAZMAT shipping while providing sufficient returns on investment to motor carriers to encourage deployment. These technologies promise to enhance not only security, but also operational efficiencies and potentially, safety.

There are approximately 800,000 HAZMAT shipments per day with many involving materials that could be used for terrorist attacks with staggering potential consequences in terms of deaths, injuries, property damage, and business disruption. With resources in limited supply and many security threats to contend with, HAZMAT trucking requires implementing solutions that are currently available, reduce risk, and that provide tangible and quickly realized benefits to stakeholders proportional to their level of investment. This evaluation examined the technical and financial performance of several promising technologies for increasing the security of HAZMAT shipments to determine what levels of operational efficiency and security benefits can be attained through deployment. This was a first of a kind study that focused on analysis relating to security benefits. This effort called upon the input and guidance of many nationally recognized experts in HAZMAT shipping, security and counter-terrorism, and risk analysis and management, to assess the capabilities of the technology systems tested in this test. The field operational test duration was 18 months.

The field operational test deployed different technology combinations. Wireless mobile communications technologies consisted of satellite and terrestrial communications with GPS-provided vehicle tracking and two-way communications between the driver and dispatcher. Digital phone tracking without GPS provided integrated work order assignment and messages between the dispatcher and driver.

In-vehicle technologies consisted of on-board computers, panic buttons and electronic cargo seals. On-board computers process data by receiving and analyzing information from sensors and devices on the vehicle. The computers store and present the information in a convenient and easily accessible manner. On-board computers provide vehicle disabling and remote locking/unlocking capability. Panic Buttons provide real-time emergency alert messaging notification and localized vehicle shutdown. Electronic cargo seals utilize short-range wireless communications to automatically generate an alert if the seal is broken without proper authorization.

Personal identification technologies consisted of biometrics and a personal identification number. Biometrics consists of technologies that analyze human characteristics (eyes, facial recognition, fingerprint, hand geometry, etc.) for verification of identity and access. This field operational test used fingerprint recognition technology.

Mobile data management used smart card technology to enable the electronic supply chain manifest (ESCM) system. The ESCM system combines biometric verification, smart cards, Internet applications, and the on-board wireless communications system to ensure proper chain-of-control.

Vehicle tracking used routing and Geofenced mapping software to put a "virtual fence" around a vehicle's intended route and automatically notify dispatch and operations personnel when the vehicle deviates from the route. Trailer tracking consisted of both tethered tracking, which provides connect and disconnect events, and untethered tracking which is combined with Geofencing to provide security to the unconnected trailer.

Different combinations of these technologies were used within four hazmat cargo truck types.


The benefits presented in Section 6 of the synthesis document were compared to the generally, more high-end costs of the satellite and terrestrial-based product/service offerings to estimate benefit-cost ratios and expected payback periods. Using the costs and benefits developed in the synthesis document, benefit-cost ratios and payback periods in months were calculated, with the results reported in Table 2. The type of equipment - terrestrial- versus satellite based assumed for each load type is: Bulk Fuel and LTL Non-Bulk-terrestrial (T) and LTL High-Hazard, Bulk Chemicals, and Truckload Explosives - Satellite (S). The choice of terrestrial- versus satellite-based systems is based on using the lowest cost service appropriate to the operational characteristics associated with the test scenarios. For example terrestrial is more appropriate for the shorter hauls in more developed areas with good terrestrial coverage associated with the Bulk Fuel and LTL-No-Bulk scenarios. The longer hauls in more remote areas characteristic of the Bulk Chemical, LTL-High Hazard and Truckload Explosives operations require the coverage afforded by satellite service.

Table 2: Costs, Benefits, Benefit-Cost Ratios, and Payback Periods by Industry Segment (Wireless Communications with GPS Tracking Capabilities)

Segment/ Fleet Size
Annual Cost/Truck
Annual Benefit/Truck
Benefit - Cost Ratio
Payback on Purchase in Months
Bulk Fuel (Terrestrial)
LTL-High Hazard (Satellite)
$2,352 to $9,840
1.5:1 to 6.5:1
3 to 17
LTL Non-Bulk (Terrestrial)
Bulk Chemicals (Satellite)
$1,560 to $7,116
1.0:1 to 4.7:1
5 to 34
Truckload Explosives (Satellite)
$1,824 to $11,004
1.2:1 to 7.2:1
3 to 25

This report, finalized in November 2004, is an assessment of research focusing on the use of technology to address HAZMAT safety and security. These findings along with the costs provide a valuable resource to those considering the implementation of advanced technology for freight safety and security.

Hazardous Materials Safety and Security Technology Field Operational Test Volume II: Evaluation Final Report Synthesis

Hazardous Materials Safety and Security Technology Field Operational Test Volume II: Evaluation Final Report Synthesis
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D. Stock (SAIC), et al.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, U.S. DOT
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