As part of the national Commercial Vehicle Information Systems and Networks (CVISN) initiative, the State of Washington deployed an electronic credentialing (e-credentialing) system for commercial vehicle operators. Available on a trial basis beginning in April 2001, the e-credentialing system aims to improve commercial vehicle administration, make roadside inspections more efficient, and speed up the commercial vehicles registration process. The system allows selected motor carriers and private service bureaus (private-sector brokers authorized to process a carrier's credentials) to apply for and print a number of commercial vehicle administrative documents in their own offices via the Internet. The system is connected to Washington State's Commercial Vehicle Information Exchange Window (CVIEW) system, which enables the licensing office to share credential data with roadside operations and with jurisdictions outside the state. Three state agencies have been involved in the design and deployment of the system: the Washington State Department of Transportation, the (WSDOT), the Washington State Department of Licensing (WSDOL), and the Washington State Patrol (WSP). This lesson is based on a U.S. Department of Transportation sponsored evaluation of the Washington State's e-credentialing system deployment.
The overall purpose of Commercial Vehicle Information Systems and Networks (CVISN) is to transfer information among compatible electronic systems. A national CVISN architecture has been defined by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), working with the states and the transportation research and motor carrier communities, to maximize the mutual use of data (or "interoperability") among the participating jurisdictions. Washington State transportation agencies were early proponents of using the set of advanced information technologies that became known as CVISN, and the state has been active in supporting CVISN. Washington was one of the eight original pilot states selected in 1996 for demonstration and evaluation of model systems. The following lessons were taken from the case study of the deployment of CVISN Electronic Credentialing in Washington State.
- Use CVISN Electronic Credentialing to identify and weigh trucks before they reach weigh stations. When a transponder-equipped truck is about a mile upstream of a CVISN weigh station that is open, the truck is electronically identified by the Commercial Vehicle Roadside Information Sorting System (CRISS) software. The truck is also weighed in motion at mainline speed, and the CRISS algorithm queries the Commercial Vehicle Information Exchange Window (CVIEW) database automatically, in real time. If that truck's identifying code is in the Washington State database, and if all of the vehicle's information meets the state-defined screening criteria, then that truck would normally receive a green light on its in-vehicle transponder to bypass the weigh station. If there is a problem, such as an expired credential or a truck that exceeds its registered weight limit, or if the truck is chosen for a random pull-in, then the truck would get a red light on the transponder, signaling the driver to stop and report to the weigh station for inspection.
- Implement CRISS software to help inspectors better identify trucks with potential problems. Beyond the automatic signaling function, the CRISS software also helps the Washington State Patrol (WSP) inspectors who operate the weigh stations. The software displays a picture and selected information about each commercial truck that is on the mainline approaching a weigh station. The system uses a computer algorithm, based on WIM data and number of axles, that displays information at the scalehouse for commercial vehicles only. Any potential problems with axle weight (or, for transponder-equipped trucks, any problems with credentials or safety status) are flagged and displayed in red on the screen to notify the WSP inspector. The CRISS software in Washington State was the first in the nation to associate real-time digital photographs of specific trucks with corresponding vehicle data shown on the weigh station computer monitor, to assist in visual identification and enforcement.
- Implement CRISS software so that inspectors can focus more on trucks most likely to be in violation of regulations. According to John Nicholas, one of WSP's commercial vehicle enforcement program managers, it is very helpful for inspectors to have instant access to each truck's information—plus the photograph—before the truck arrives at the static scale. WSP inspectors report great improvements in traffic flow and a reduction in congestion at the weigh stations since CVISN e-screening began. Inspectors can more readily identify the trucks, and can concentrate their efforts on the subset of trucks most likely to be in violation of commercial vehicle regulations.
- Use e-credentialing software to process information faster. In the legacy system, carriers often make adjustments to their fleets during the time interval that the application is in the mail or being processed by the state, resulting in update cycles and refunds or additional payments within an application cycle. The electronic system is much closer to real-time processing, reducing the need for such mid-cycle transactions.
- Use e-credentialing software so that staff can spend more time on more pressing duties. CVISN e-credentialing has enabled state licensing staff to take on other, more pressing duties, and to pursue other state CVO objectives that were outside the team's capacity before CVISN was deployed. Because they spend less time entering data from paper applications, WSDOL administrative staff members now spend a greater portion of their time:
- - Reviewing and quality-checking paper records of electronic transactions
- Interacting with system users
- Working on the new Performance and Registration Information Systems Management (PRISM) activities
- Helping ensure a higher level of accuracy for the data in the CVIEW system, through research and verification with authoritative sources of information.
The WSP inspectors have benefited from electronic access to real-time credentialing, safety, and WIM data. This information helps the inspectors save time and focus their attention in deciding which vehicles to call in for a closer look, and which to return to the roadway. The WSP has observed an increase in the rate of finding weight limit violations and issuing citations at the scalehouse, because transponder-equipped trucks operating within the regulations are often given green lights to bypass.
Electronic credentialing has significantly improved the process for commercial motor carriers to apply for and receive their credentials. The experiences presented here indicate that some of the specific benefits realized through the use of ITS e-credentialing include making commercial vehicle administration and roadside inspections more efficient, keeping commercial vehicles moving on the state's roads, and registering commercial vehicles more quickly.