Office of Operations Freight Management and Operations

1.0 Introduction

1.1 Vision

In response to growing demands placed on truck enforcement programs, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) have partnered in support of the Smart Roadside Initiative, an undertaking designed, in part, to extend truck inspection capabilities away from the traditional fixed site environment to the roadside.  The vision for the Smart Roadside is one in which commercial vehicles, motor carriers, enforcement resources, highway facilities, intermodal facilities, toll facilities, and other nodes on the transportation system collect data for their own purposes and share the data seamlessly in order to improve motor carrier safety, operational efficiency, and freight mobility.  This vision will be achieved through the application of interoperable technology and information sharing between in-vehicle, on-the-road, and freight facility systems.

An array of benefits has been associated with adding automated tools to current truck inspection activities, including:

  • Less infrastructure damage caused by overloading;
  • Safer highway operations;
  • Lower overall highway-based vehicle emissions;
  • Reduced transport costs and enhanced global competitiveness; and
  • Substantially decreased time between inspections.

Development, testing, and deployment of advanced technologies that  accurately measure commercial vehicles while they are in motion; determine a motor carrier’s or commercial vehicle’s compliance with Federal and State size and weight, safety, and credentialing regulations; and target enforcement at noncompliant/high-risk motor carriers and commercial vehicles are key elements of the Smart Roadside.  Two essential components of these elements of the Smart Roadside initiative are wireless roadside inspections and virtual weigh stations, both of which facilitate dramatic improvements in the scope and effectiveness of roadside enforcement.  The wireless roadside inspection increases the frequency of roadside safety inspections through the use of on-board systems and roadside and communication technologies.  Virtual weigh stations increase the frequency of roadside size and weight measurements through the expanded monitoring of bypass, secondary, remote, and urban routes and targeting of enforcement action on high-risk carriers and vehicles.  Depending on their configuration, virtual weigh stations also have the potential to increase the frequency with which a motor carrier’s/commercial vehicle’s compliance with Federal and State safety and credential regulations is verified.

1.2 Purpose of Plan

The purpose of this Implementation Plan is to recommend strategies to encourage the deployment of roadside technologies to improve truck size and weight enforcement in the United States.  The plan includes strategies that State practitioners can use to overcome typical challenges confronting the deployment of virtual weigh stations and other roadside enforcement operations (Section 3.0) and overall program support that FHWA needs to provide to jurisdictions looking to deploy virtual weigh stations and other operations (Section 4.0).  The plan is the final deliverable in FHWA’s Truck Size and Weight Enforcement Technology project conducted by Cambridge Systematics.  The goal of the project was to encourage and facilitate states’ technology deployments as a means to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of roadside enforcement.

The Truck Size and Weight Enforcement Technology project consisted of seven interrelated tasks.  The results of each task were described in a series of memoranda.  Task 7 incorporates the task results into the Implementation Plan.  The preceding tasks were:

  • Task 1 – Produce a diagram that illustrates how roadside technologies could be combined to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of various elements of the roadside enforcement process in the United States;
  • Task 2 – Evaluate the state of the practice for using roadside technologies in enforcement activities.  Develop a concept of operations for the virtual weigh station, describing the goals, functions, key concepts, architecture, operational scenarios, operational policies, and impacts of virtual weigh stations;
  • Task 3 – Identify and describe institutional, technical, regulatory, legal, and other issues that can be expected to hinder the development or deployment of roadside technologies for enforcement;
  • Task 4 – Produce guidelines on the use of weigh-in-motion technology in roadside enforcement;
  • Task 5 – Determine the feasibility of sharing data collected from roadside enforcement systems with motor carriers, in order to improve private sector operations; and
  • Task 6 – Determine how other Federal agencies could improve their programs and operations by leveraging data generated from roadside size and weight enforcement technologies. 

Task 1 produced the “American Lego diagram,” a tool that was adapted from the Netherlands and applied to the roadside environment of the United States.  Technologies are depicted as building blocks that can be added to a truck weight enforcement program to realize greater enforcement efforts using fewer human resources.  As building blocks, the technologies can be combined into different solution sets in order to serve multiple purposes at the roadside and to meet a jurisdiction’s unique needs and operational objectives.  From this model virtual weigh stations and other roadside systems are constructed from individual technologies and used for enforcement purposes.  Coordination and integration of technologies is, in fact, the core “mission” of the Smart Roadside Initiative.

New data was collected for this project during Tasks 2 and 5.  Task 2 was supported by an expanded data collection effort designed to capture the “best practices” of states with differing approaches to utilizing technologies.  Emphasis was placed on weigh-in-motion (WIM) activities during State site visits and phone interviews.  Information about other technologies used by states for enforcement, especially technologies used in association with WIM, also was captured.  Task 5 featured interviews conducted with representatives from electronic roadside programs, motor carrier industry associations, and individual motor carriers.

The focus of this Implementation Plan is enforcement applications of WIM technology, including other technologies associated with WIM at the roadside. 

1.3 Organization of Plan

This document contains four sections.  The sections are the following:

  • Section 1.0, Introduction – Provides the context for developing an implementation strategy and describes the purpose of this plan.
  • Section 2.0, Summary of Benefits and Challenges – Presents an overview of the benefits and challenges of deploying roadside technologies.
  • Section 3.0, Strategies – Recommends strategies that can be used by states to mitigate challenges and facilitate deployment of roadside technologies.
  • Section 4.0, Program Implementation – Describes the program support that needs to be offered by FHWA to help states overcome the challenges.
Two appendices also are included in this document.  Appendix A is a list of acronyms.  Appendix B is a “Reference Guide to Deploying Roadside Technologies” that summarizes the important steps that can be taken by states in order to incorporate new roadside technologies into their enforcement programs.  States are encouraged to tailor or modify the guide to suit their particular circumstances and needs.

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