APL technology drives Maryand vehicle-screening initiative

The US state of Maryland will employ an electronic screening process developed by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in a six-month test program designed to improve the effectiveness of motor-carrier safety enforcement.

Using an electronic screening process developed by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), Maryland and US federal transportation agencies launched a six-month test program designed to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of motor-carrier safety enforcement on the state’s highways.

The Maryland Department of Transportation, Maryland Transportation Authority and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration unveiled the E-Screening Pilot Program during a ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway complex.

If successful, the $1.2 million project could lead to additional electronic screening sites at commercial vehicle weigh and inspection stations in Maryland and serve as a model for transportation agencies across the US.

The system uses a pocket-size transponder attached to a truck’s windshield and sensors embedded in and alongside the road to automatically check a moving vehicle’s weight, height, safety history and tax and registration status.

The sensors detect height and weight; the transponder identifies the truck and allows the system to quickly check the carrier’s safety and other salient information in state and federal databases. Cleared vehicles are signalled to bypass the weigh station without stopping, while those flagged ‘at risk’ are directed into the station for closer inspection.

The E-Screening project is part of a five-year, $40 million contract the US Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) awarded to APL in 1999.

APL has developed the architecture for a collection of systems known as the Commercial Vehicle Information Systems and Networks. CVISN is a national program to develop a ‘paperless’ system where information can be passed from moving vehicles to roadside checkpoints, and between government agencies and commercial operations, using existing or recently developed technologies.

The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century calls for deployment of CVISN in a majority of states by September 30, 2003. The Laboratory has worked with commercial vehicle transportation agencies from 34 states on CVISN projects.

‘CVISN offers tremendous benefits,’ said Kim E. Richeson, manager of the Applied Physics Laboratory’s Commercial Vehicle Operations program, which includes CVISN and the E-Screening project. ‘Using new ways to connect existing technologies, CVISN can improve industry compliance and reduce the number of unsafe carriers on the road; cut travel time and increase productivity for safe commercial-vehicle drivers; and trim costs by promoting more efficient use of staff resources.’