Wyoming’s DOT will wirelessly connect snowplows, trucks, fleet management centers, and roadside equipment to provide timely information that will result in highway advisories.
We’re all connected….almost all the time. We’re on mobile devices; answering texts, posting on social media, and occasionally actually talking. Our cable operators know exactly what we’re watching and when. Buy something online and the eCommerce company you purchased from will use that information in later communications. But there are times when that connectivity can actually make us all a lot safer.
The trucking industry already has a certain amount of connectivity through GPS technology and ELDs, but one state has taken an additional step. The Billings Gazette published an article earlier this month on a new joint program between the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). This program will wirelessly connect snowplows, trucks, fleet management centers, and roadside equipment to improve safety along Interstate 80 during bad weather (which can occur frequently in this part of the country) by providing advisories and alerts to commercial and private vehicles on this much-used highway. The ultimate goal is to reduce the number of accidents that can be caused by dangerous weather conditions. Truck blowovers, road closures, even fender benders, can create significant safety and mobility issues. This is a way to hopefully mitigate those circumstances by providing an “early warning system” to motorists.
The I-80 corridor in Wyoming is one of only three locations that were selected to participate in the program. The federal government, through the DOT, is providing $730,000 for the first phase of the plan; when all three phases are complete, the total amount is estimated at $5.2 million. If you’re not sure how much an accurate, timely advisory system is needed, consider this. On I-80 in Wyoming, in excess of 200 blowover incidents caused by high wind were reported. On January 5, 2015, there were more than 18 accidents on this highway due to bad weather. In fact, along Wyoming’s portion of this highway, there were 86 road closures in a five-year period, with the average closure lasting more than eight hours. For those in the commercial trucking industry, that is a catastrophe.
How important is this portion of the nation’s highway? The article quotes WYDOT Director, John Cox, who noted, “Much of the freight moving from West Coast ports to the Midwest uses that highway, which can experience rapidly changing and extreme weather conditions. Anything we can do to help get road and traffic condition information to the drivers on the highway will improve safety for travelers in commercial and private vehicles.”
A number of federal, private, and higher education institutions are working with WYDOT on this first phase. The goal is to have this first phase ready to go before the dangerous winter weather begins. If this innovative model proves successful, it can then be used in other Western states.
This is a prime example of how technology and a collaborative program can work to improve the public’s safety, knowledge, and convenience. And get our shipments to their proper destinations in as timely a fashion as possible, regardless of the weather.