…Improving Highway Safety Through Better Communication with Commercial Vehicle Operators.
DelDOT has launched the Work Zone & Incident Communication System (WZIC) project. Funded through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), this project will pursue the Public/Private Data Solution by identifying the desirable incident and advisory data sets (including truck parking data), data formats and reasonable distribution processes that both DOTs and private companies can find acceptable.
The project will also design a special area in DelDOT’s commercial vehicle web portal, capitalizing on best practices and lessons learned in Idaho and Iowa.
2017 Feasibility Study of the Problem.
In 2017, DelDOT conducted a feasibility study to learn how it could better communicate with commercial vehicle operators both in and out of the vehicle. How to get them the incident and travel advisory information they need, before they need it, so they can make better driving decisions. The study investigated what other state departments of transportation (DOTs) and private companies were doing to distribute this critical information and considered possible solutions for Delaware.
The Single-Touch Policy
Most state DOT’s have smart phone travel apps for general motorist use. Some provide regular updates of incidents and travel advisories. But most of those apps, if used in the cab of a commercial vehicle, would violate the FMCSA’s “single-touch” policy. An operator’s risk of citation and fines is so great that large truck fleet companies go so far as to prohibit cell phones in the cab as a basic work rule. To comply with the FMCSA policy, two states have developed commercial operator smartphone apps that do meet the single-touch requirement.
Verified Data – The Holy Grail
Some private companies have developed travel apps specifically for commercial operators. They don’t, however, provide real-time, DOT verified incident and travel advisory information. Turns out, verified DOT data is highly desired by these companies, simply because it doesn’t contain all the extraneous chatter of crowd-sourced data. One company vice president the project team spoke with described the DOT verified data as the Holy Grail – data they would really like to provide to their customers.
Communication Outside the Vehicle
There are also opportunities for communication outside the vehicle – in operator’s homes, at dispatch centers, truck stops, way sides, etc. The Iowa and Idaho DOTs provide special areas on their websites specifically for commercial vehicle operators. These web pages display travel and incident advisories formatted in such a way that critical information is easily accessible.
OUT OF THE BOX SOLUTION:
Traditional Thinking, or Not
The traditional solution would have been for DelDOT to do what the two other states have done -- develop a single-touch, travel app appropriate for commercial operators and directly populate it with Delaware’s incident and travel advisory data. But, during conversations with other DOT’s, some of the traffic services’ managers mentioned that they were beginning to question whether a DOT should even be in the travel app development business at all. They wondered if a better strategy was for the DOT to focus on data acquisition (part of their core business and something they do well) and leave the travel app development and data distribution to the private sector (their core business and something they do well).
If much larger states were already thinking about getting out of the travel app development business, why would DelDOT even want to consider getting into it? It was time to think outside the box.
The Public/Private Data Solution
The project team proposed the “Public/Private Data Solution.” The public agencies (the DOTs) acquire the data and make it available. The private companies with communication capabilities (the Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs)s, Fleet Management Systems, Scale Bypass Systems, Navigation Systems, and Travel Apps), access the data, maintain the technology and provide the distribution process. Commercial vehicle operators are better informed. Highway safety is improved. Everyone wins.
YOUR INPUT MATTERS!!:
DelDOT welcomes your input as the WZIC project proceeds. Whether you are a private company in the transportation technology sector, an independent owner operator, a fleet trucking company, a public agency or the motoring public, your input can help ensure that DelDOT provides a solution that works for all the stakeholders and makes the highways safer for everyone.
If your agency or company is interested in providing input or feedback, please contact us.
DelDOT Project Manager