„Digital governance will make road freight transport fairer and safer“

by Volker SchnebleImage_Blog_Kapsch_3_MEDIUMSMALL

Only around 5% of the 6.2 million trucks in the EU and 11.2m truck in the US are ever checked for compliance with existing rules – whether these concern the vehicles themselves, the humans who use them or the load they carry. This lack of enforcement causes avoidable crashes, increased road maintenance costs and economic costs due to market distortions.

Data could be a powerful tool for improved enforcement of the rules in road freight. Indeed, a recent ITF report recommended moving towards digital governance approaches. The concept of “Data-led Commercial Vehicle Enforcement” (CVE) is operationalizing this approach, facilitating on-the-spot roadside controls as well as on-the-fly checks.

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Only around 5% of trucks in Europe and the US are ever subject to compliance checks

Data can help control vehicle condition (for instance whether maximum load weights are exceeded or the roadworthiness is imperiled) as well as monitor driver behavior (e.g. via digitalized tachograph records) or verify compliance with the rules of the market, for example by  checking that a company is licensed for freight transport of a specific type and in a given region.

Many rules, one enforcement mechanism

Market-based rules regulate the access of road haulage operators to the road transport market. In parts of the world with smaller countries, road transport often means cross-border traffic. To assure the functioning of the international road freight markets, the most important rules and regulations that govern road haulage are supranational.

Driver-based rules are those that apply to professional truck drivers and their specific actions when at the wheel, resting or in the state of availability. The regulation of driving time is a good example of a driver-based rule. In the European Union and the countries of the European Agreement Concerning the Work of Crews of Vehicles Engaged in International Road Transport (AETR), it is enforced by fitting every goods vehicle with a total weight of more than 3.5 tonnes with a tachograph that records driving and rest times. Similar regulations and requirements for drivers apply in the United States and in Canada.

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On-board units and receivers built into the infrastructure used by trucks can ensure that enforcement agencies are always in the picture

The increasing use of information technology in heavy goods vehicles makes automated, therefore ongoing and hence more effective enforcement of all of these rules feasible. Based on information provided by on-board units in real time and with the monitoring of the data facilitated through receivers embedded in the infrastructure that trucks use, enforcement agencies are always in the picture. In many cases, they won’t need to even act because enforcement can be automatic. Pilot research already indicates promising results –  see this video of a Direct Weigh In Motion and Credential Enforcement pilot programme in Indiana (United States) and a corresponding article in the Chicago Post-Tribune.

Don’t cross that bridge when you reach it

The road infrastructure automatically surveys a vehicle’s total weight and stops it from using weight-sensitive road sections – a bridge for instance – if it is too heavy. Similarly, existing information from the onboard systems on vehicle emissions could be used monitor compliance with the limits on CO2 or particle emissions required by vehicle condition rules – and signal that the vehicle may not enter, say, a zone restricted to electric vehicles.

The technology is already available. Now it is for governments to create market access and automated enforcement instruments: certified equipment, legal and administrative cooperation between national enforcement bodies or radio spectrum free of interference.


Volker Schneble is Managing Director Germany of Kapsch TrafficCom AG, a provider of intelligent transport systems. Kapsch works in tolling, traffic management, smart urban mobility, traffic safety and security, and connected vehicles. As a member of the International Transport Forum’s Corporate Partnership Board, Kapsch contributes its expertise to transport-related research projects undertaken at the ITF.

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