Office of Operations Freight Management and Operations

Measuring Border Delay and Crossing Times at the US–Mexico Border
Final Report
Automated Crossing and Wait Time Measurement


Warrantees, Operations and Maintenance

There is no programmed maintenance required with the system components. The RFID system carries a one-year warranty. The system as designed should operate on its own without any attention until a component ceases to function and will then need to be replaced.

The solar batteries carry a one-year warranty. They will need to be replaced every few years. It is a considerable advantage if circumstances allow the location of an RFID reader station to have access to reliable hardwired power for the readers and antennas (as in the BOTA and Pharr POEs at the CBP primary inspection booth installations). The batteries will still be needed, but the procurement, installation, and eventual replacement cost of the solar panels will be avoided.

Airtime costs for the cellular communications are captured in Table 15 below. This is the only significant recurring expense that has been experienced since the equipment has been installed.

The server and logger are key components of the data communication and archiving process. Like any computer equipment, they will need to be occasionally updated and eventually will have to be replaced. These are components that are mobile, in the sense that they can be transferred to another office and their functions resume. They require a secure, cool location with reliable power and backup power. Wireless communications connectivity to the reader system at a new location must be tested and not assumed to exist.

There is also a significant value in implementing an automated warning module within the back office component and integrated with the process that receives and stores the RFID data. This will allow the system administrator to proactively check for errors and fix any malfunctions quickly without losing significant amount of data. The automated warning module should generate alarm or some kind of notification to the system administrator when:

  • The server or a computer loses connection with the field device for a long period of time (thresholds can be defined).
  • The server or a computer does not receive RFID data packets from the field on days and times of day when POEs are supposed to remain open. The module could be pre-programmed with a list of days and times of day when the POEs will close.

Business Model for Progressing from Technology Exploration to Pilot Test to Adoption

Once the border crossing/delay/wait time system is in place and the technology has been tested, the next step would be the adoption and use of the technology by all stakeholders. This could be achieved by developing close to real-time and archived information reports that are useful to all stakeholders. The operation of the system to provide close to real-time information needs to have staff dedicated to regularly monitor the system and make sure that is working properly. The analysis of archived data and report development also requires staff dedicated to these activities.

It is intended that some set of this project’s stakeholders accept ownership from FHWA and continue the operation and maintenance of the system. Transfer of the mobile components (i.e., wireless receiver and server) would be made to the agency, association, or other organization that will continue operation of the system. In that way, benefits to the region’s stakeholders, FHWA, and CBP from having access to near real-time wait and crossing time information will continue to accrue.

Funding for the implementation and/or operation and maintenance costs could come from the border States, Federal agencies involved in cross-border transportation, and even private sector stakeholders that use the information generated on a close to real-time basis as well as the archived information.

Operations and Maintenance Cost

A detailed cost of operation and maintenance of two RFID stations at BOTA that was experienced over the first year of operation is shown in table 15. This first year annual cost includes operation and maintenance of the website, RSS feeds, and the data archive. It does not include replacement of major hardware such as RFID readers, RFID antenna, utility poles, etc. It is meant to be illustrative, as circumstances at the site of another border crossing RFID tag reader system could be quite different. Costs do not include certain contractual loadings that would be applied.

Table 15. Annual costs for operations and maintenance of BOTA system.
Item Description Cost Remark
1 Labor Cost to Maintain Processing and Real-Time Information Dissemination $5,100 Does not include first time setup of website, database, and other algorithms. This cost will decrease in subsequent years of operation. To get monthly cost, divide Item 1 cost by 12.
2 Hardware Maintenance Cost (2 visits in the event of major system failure) $6,400 Includes travel expense to verify and fix system failures. Does not include replacement of hardware such as readers, antennas etc. It is assumed the vendor will provide replacement warranty.
3 Other Accidental Hardware Purchase and Replacement Cost $900 Includes replacement of minor components – batteries, antennas, wirings etc. but not the reader, antennas, and poles.
4 One Year Subscription of Cellular Modem Data Plan for 2 Modems $1,200 Monthly data subscription of $50.00 per modem and assumes 2 modems for this location.

Data Security and Control

While the nature of this topic depends on the organizations involved, it must be considered. FHWA, CBP, and their Mexican counterparts will desire access to border wait time and crossing time information, both the near real-time travel data as well as archived data. State DOTs and DPSs, MPOs, and bridge authorities are examples of stakeholders that may also desire this information. Decisions must be made on who owns and controls the data and who has access to what parts of the data.

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