Enhancing Efficiency

Deploying ITS in commercial vehicle operations

With increasing use of the internet and wireless communication, the transportation experience has changed significantly over the years. Smarter solutions, such as intelligent transportation systems (ITS), have been adopted across the globe to enhance efficiencies in intra- and interstate passenger and freight transport.

At present, commercial vehicle operations in India are mostly dependent on manual fleet management and regulation. Smart solutions are being deployed in certain verticals such as toll revenue collection, intra-city traffic data analysis and vehicle screening. However, the use of electronic and technology solutions in the country is very limited. The large-scale use of ITS offers great benefits to various stakeholders.

ITS in the commercial vehicle domain can enable the constant monitoring and tracking of vehicles, safe and quick movement of people and goods, and a better customer experience. These systems include solutions such as safety information exchange systems, electronic screening and credentialling, systems for traffic data collection and analysis, and traveller information systems. Further, commercial vehicle information systems and networks connect these ITS solutions using technology infrastructure and frameworks.

Indian Infrastructure takes a look at the opportunities and benefits with respect to the deployment of ITS for commercial vehicle operations…

Fleet management system

Freight transport operators can use ITS tools for fleet management. These operators can deploy technologies for vehicle tracking to monitor the operations and performance of their vehicles. These technologies can enable them to meet their delivery targets in a time-bound manner. Further, operators can use fleet management systems to evaluate the need to spread freight weight among their vehicles, deploy a larger fleet for their operations, and hire more vehicle drivers. In addition, carriers can also tap into traffic data and communicate vital information to the vehicle drivers. By making use of traveller information systems, drivers can be alerted to intra- and interstate traffic and congestion, accidents and safety concerns, quicker routes to their destinations, etc. Several vehicle manufacturers are also installing safety technologies to alert drivers to the possibility of collisions with pedestrians and vehicles. These alerts are in the form of noise alerts or visual simulations. In addition, operators are also installing radio frequency identification-based tags on their commercial fleets. These tags allow vehicles to pass through toll plazas faster, without stopping for transactions.

Traffic data analysis

Commercial vehicle operators, especially logistics players, utilise ITS solutions to track their freight cargo and vehicle movements in real time. They use this traffic information to ensure that targets are met in a time-bound manner as well as for the safety of their fleet. Such information is also passed on to customers to give them regular updates on their shipments.

Recording and analysing traffic and commuter patterns has also proven to be an essential business component for private taxi operators such as Uber and Ola. These vehicle operators tap into traffic data to assess real-time demand and supply of their services. Based on this, they are able to evaluate the transit demand and can enhance their cab services in certain areas. Further, the data can also help them assess traffic congestion and busy routes. Hence, they can identify quicker and more economical routes for their operations, and communicate the same to their vehicle drivers around the city. In addition, these operators also adjust their fare prices based on data on prevailing traffic conditions and demand.

While ITS can be deployed by these carriers to achieve day-to-day operational efficiencies, it can also help them in assessing the financial outcomes of their operations. They can map the demand and supply of their services and undertake feasibility and profitability studies for their business ventures using traffic data.

For commuters, traffic information can be presented through visual exploratory data analysis and geographical mapping. This can help them access information on traffic congestion, safety and accidents, the availability of commercial vehicle services, etc. In addition, such systems also provide commuters with real-time information about the current location and estimated arrival time of their taxis. Therefore, a better experience can be provided to users of such commercial vehicle services.

In addition, traffic data collection systems can also be deployed by city planners and state governments, as they can be used to identify regions in need of road and public transport infrastructure. Solutions such as traffic management, traveller information systems, and traffic monitoring based on geographic information systems can also be used to enhance transit efficiencies. In addition, the data can be utilised by enforcement agencies to improve governance. These agencies can obtain real-time information on issues such as heavy traffic routes, traffic rule violations and non-functioning signals, and address them swiftly. In India, some cities are already in the process of using traffic data to address these problems. Some of these upcoming projects include a real-time traffic management system in Hyderabad and a traffic surveillance system with red light violation and high speed detection technologies in Jaipur.

Communication of safety information

The exchange of safety data regarding commercial operators, vehicles and drivers has emerged as a core ITS segment. Safety information exchange systems comprise the collection of safety performance data and credentials, improved access to such information, and regular data updates. Enforcement agencies can utilise these safety information systems to maintain a record of safety performance and make informed decisions.

Safety information can be collected by deploying ITS tools at roadsides. For instance, inspection selection systems can be used by safety inspectors to identify high-risk commercial vehicles. Thus, time can be saved by avoiding the inspection of vehicles with good safety performance records. In addition, past inspection query systems can also be used to extract safety-related information. Such a system provides access to past safety inspection data for vehicles, regardless of where the inspection was carried out.

The use of such systems enables enforcement agencies to streamline their resources by identifying high-risk carriers and drivers and encouraging them to improve their performance. In addition, fleet owners and commercial operators can be provided with better information to manage their safety programmes.

Electronic screening

Electronic screening systems can also be deployed for monitoring commercial vehicle operations. Identifying and screening risky commercial vehicles through electronic means can result in improved traffic flows and enhanced safety. For instance, dedicated short-range communication (DSRC) equipment can be installed in the form of receivers on roadsides and transponders on vehicles. Electronic tags can be mounted on vehicles and licence plate readers can be installed on roadsides. These will help support the vehicle screening process by communicating data such as weights and speeds of vehicles and traffic rule violations to the central traffic control centre. Automatic vehicle classification technology can also be deployed along highways and expressways. This technology uses axle detectors to classify

vehicles into various types. Further, the weigh-in-motion technology, which weighs moving vehicles without needing them to stop, can also be deployed. This can help enforcement agencies in identifying vehicles carrying weights higher than the permissible limits.

Such ITS solutions can allow commercial vehicles meeting safety and legal criteria to bypass roadside weighing and inspections by enforcement agencies. This can lead to substantial time savings for enforcement agencies and vehicle operators, smooth traffic flow and a reduction in inspection queues. In addition, it will also decrease the need to develop conventional weighing and screening infrastructure which requires large investments. Therefore, state agencies can save additional infrastructure costs.

However, while such screening tools are installed at roadside inspection sites by government agencies, commercial operators also need to opt for voluntary installations of equipment such as DSRC transponders on their fleet. Only then can the electronic screening process be effectively executed.

Electronic credentialling

To operate within and between states, commercial vehicles are mandated by the government to acquire proper credentials. These include vehicle registrations, weight permits, permits for transportation of hazardous materials, etc. Several processes of credentials management are required to ensure smooth commercial vehicle operations. These comprise the submission, approval and granting of credentials; payment of associated fees; and filing of fuel tax returns. While most of these processes in India are currently done manually, they can easily be digitised through an electronic credential system.

An electronic credential system will allow for maintaining electronic records of credentials, sending and approving credential applications and making payments for administrative fees and fuel taxes online. In addition, the system can also send notifications regarding the status of credentials. For this, carriers can either have their own automated credentialling systems or access websites of state departments and apply for credentials online.

Therefore, electronic credentialling can facilitate rapid access to credentials by vehicle carriers, drivers and state agencies. Further, the adoption of this solution can result in substantially less paperwork, more responsive and quick administrative processes, and enhanced operational efficiency.

Conclusion

There is a lot of scope to implement and thus profit from ITS in the commercial vehicle domain, as the current use of ITS in this segment is very limited in India. Most of these systems are being used for intra-city passenger transportation, freight cargo transport, and toll revenue collections. However, commercial vehicle operators and government agencies can benefit immensely by deploying these systems. ITS solutions can usher in a new era of automated fleet monitoring, better regulation and greater operational efficiencies in the country.

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