On September 11, 2001, a new era of security awareness emerged as a result of terrorist attacks on the United States. These attacks emphasized the critical importance of a secure national transportation system. The security of truck operations is a major component of this system. Reducing the vulnerability of truck operations is vital. Commercial motor vehicles are not only potential targets of attack, but they can also be used as a means of transferring destructive materials within the country and as weapons to attack other targets.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has been investigating methods to improve carrier security, particularly in the area of hazardous materials security. The transportation of hazardous materials is the largest security risk area within the trucking industry, with more than 800,000 shipments of hazardous materials transported each day in the United States. In 2004, FMCSA completed a comprehensive Hazardous Materials Safety and Security Field Operational Test that included an element to test a basic untethered trailer tracking (UTT) system. This system provided trailer position and identification information to a dispatcher on a regular basis.
The House of Representatives Report 107-722, Department of Transportation and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, 2003, stated that further development of existing trailer tracking systems was essential:
Truck trailers pose a significant potential security threat since they provide an easy means to transport dangerous cargos. In addition, the inability to track freight movements causes inefficiencies in the intermodal freight transportation system, increasing operating costs and congestion, and decreasing safety, economic competitiveness, and air quality. While commercially available technology can track a trailer when it is tethered to a cab, commercially available technologies are needed to track and control an untethered trailer. Within the funds provided for FMCSA's limitation on administrative expenses and high priority initiative program, the Committee has provided the funding to leverage existing technology and develop an untethered trailer tracking and control system that will provide real-time trailer identification, location, geo-fencing, unscheduled movement notification, door sensors, and alarms.
As a result, FMCSA conducted a national pilot test of a UTT system with the expanded functions specified in the congressional report. For this project, FMCSA worked in partnership with a review team comprised of participants from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Maritime Administration (MARAD), Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), and Department of Defense (DOD). Also, an expert panel comprised of stakeholders from Landstar, J.B. Hunt, Geologic Solutions, and Skybitz provided expert opinions and advice for this project. Another independent group of experts provided their opinions about security-related vulnerabilities of trailers containing shipments of explosives.
In the United States, there are an estimated 2.5 to 3 million dry van trailers, yet UTT systems are installed on only about 2 percent of these trailers. Moreover, the trucking industry uses approximately three times as many trailers as tractors; therefore, loaded and empty trailers sitting unwatched can be subject to both theft and terrorism. Cargo and equipment can be stolen as an economic crime or used as a weapon of mass destruction (WMD).
The lack of in-transit visibility has resulted in security risks and inefficient use of available trailers sitting unwatched and subject to both theft and terrorism. When a trailer is removed from its dropped location and erroneously moved or parked, the trucking company typically conducts lengthy searches to locate it. Also, trucking companies may often subcontract to other trucking companies to haul certain loads for them, thereby losing trailer visibility at the switch. Furthermore, shippers may not inform trucking companies when trailers are empty, which can cause an unnecessary delay in returning the trailer for productive use.
The UTT system can reduce these vulnerabilities by addressing the potential threats of stolen trailers, which could be used to convey weapons of mass destruction and the theft of hazardous materials cargo, which could result in catastrophic releases. In addition, the UTT system can also address the threat of cargo sabotage – where cargo, such as food products could be contaminated. The increased visibility provided by the UTT system can also potentially deter and detect interception or diversion of tractor-trailers en route – where unauthorized personnel could gain access to trailers, cargo, and important information for illicit purposes.
In addition to security benefits, the UTT system can improve operational efficiency. Trucking companies frequently buy excess trailers to ensure their availability for their most expensive assets – tractors. Due to a lack of manpower and adequate trailer storage facilities, these trailer stockpiles may be either inaccurately accessed or unknowingly disbursed at various locations. Trailer stockpiling also creates additional inefficiencies, such as constant inventory checks (yard checks), extra maintenance, extra parking space, erroneous pickups, and theft, which deplete the trucking company's resources. These unnecessary costs can be significantly reduced through improved asset management using a UTT system.
The purpose of this pilot test was to test a UTT system that meets specific functional requirements that could improve the safety and security of trailers and shipments at each phase of its movement – pick up, delivery, receipt, and storage. The UTT system included:
- Near real-time trailer identification
- Accurate time of connection and disconnection activities
- Location and mapping of trailers
- Geo-fencing to identify a risk area
- Unscheduled movement notification
- Remote sensing of a loaded or empty trailer
- Cargo and Door Sensors
A systems engineering process was followed to test the UTT system. Interim reports were developed within each project phase. Information from these interim reports is consolidated in this document.
First, the concept of operations interim report defined the UTT system user environment by providing information about how each user interacts with the system and the user's unique operational conditions. The concept of operations described three operational scenarios addressing different segments of the trucking industry:
- The Truckload Scenario 1 involved a national truckload delivery of standard dry van deliveries.
- The High Value Scenario 2 involved a national truckload delivery of high value retail clothing and electronics.
- The Explosives/HAZMAT Scenario 3 included the regional truckload of Class 1.1 – 1.6 Explosives.
The primary focus of the three different scenarios was on deploying the systems in ways that optimized the safety, utilization, and security. Each scenario included 25 vehicles, with various combinations of UTT system components installed on the trailers.
Next, the UTT system functional requirements report described the features and functions used to define the UTT system and its operational functionality. Additional input from key individuals and companies in the transportation industry was incorporated in the requirements with an emphasis on mapping the system requirements to the three scenarios.
Then, the UTT system design interim report specified the physical and logical architecture of the UTT technology subsystems and defined the detailed interface requirements between the technology subsystems. The system design included a system specification; a subsystem design section that summarized the design architecture by technology and scenario; and a test specification section.
Prior to the pilot test, the UTT system was installed on a prototype test vehicle to demonstrate the functionality of the technology components, data collection schemes, and procedures. The prototype test vehicle operated for 45 days to test all systems and data collection processes. A prototype test checklist was created to verify the operation of individual components of the UTT system.
Following the prototype test, the pilot test plan was finalized for testing the combinations of technologies for the UTT systems in the three scenarios. The pilot test plan included the following major test elements:
- Pre-Test Implementation: Activities performed prior to the installation, training of the pilot test participants, and problem reporting and tracking.
- Test Scenarios: Detailed test conditions per scenario and technologies deployed in each scenario.
- Test Procedures and Data Collection: Detailed description of the specific test activities and data collection.
The UTT system pilot test was conducted from October 2004 through January 2005. During the pilot test, data was collected by:
- Automatic technology data collection during operations in the field
- Daily manual logs for recording baseline carrier operations
- Interviews to determine participant perceptions of the technology
- Automatic and documented data collection of staged events
Nine on-site visits were also conducted during the test period. The purpose of these site visits with pilot test participants was to collect functional data. Qualitative participant user reactions were collected throughout the test, capturing a wide range of user attitudes, perceptions, reactions, and recommendations gained through several months of exposure and usage of the UTT system.
During daily operations and staged technology testing, the UTT system functioned with few recorded failures. In the area of security benefits, the testing showed that the UTT system has the potential to reduce inherent trailer and shipment vulnerabilities to theft by increasing current levels of cargo and equipment visibility. Also, use of the UTT system has the potential to improve operational efficiency through improved asset management. Finally, safety can potentially be improved by reducing the amount of unproductive road miles and exposure to potential crashes – reducing time spent on the road hauling misdirected loads or searching for lost trailers.
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