2012 GCN AWARDS
Texas gives truckers right of way with automated permit, mapping system
- By Richard W. Walker
- Oct 18, 2012
Every day, armies of cargo trucks rumble across Texas highways. Trucks traveling through the state with especially heavy loads are required to get a special permit as well as route instructions from the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles Motor Carrier Division (MCD).
Seems like a routine service, except that customer demand for permits from the MCD has skyrocketed while the division’s resources for fielding the permits has not.
By 2007, MCD’s 65-person staff was issuing more than half a million permits annually and struggling to keep up with the demand; they were also overwhelmed and demoralized. Angry carriers complained to the governor’s office about slow permit service. Meanwhile the state was losing money because some carriers simply took their chances and drove “hot” – without permits.
At the time, MCD’s permit process was partially automated; its Central Permitting System let carriers apply for permits online anytime but applications were processed only during business hours. MCD staff manually routed loads across Texas using paper maps with hand-annotated restrictions, such as overhead obstruction heights.
(Pictured above, front row, from left: Karen McRae, Kristy Schultz, Carol Davis, Missy Bennett, and Michelle Hudson. Back row, from left: Elizabeth Morris, Bryan Elliott, Bryan Evans, DuWayne Murdock, Tim Pilcher, Jesse Kirk, Mike Webb, and Lois Johnson.)
MCD officials decided to automate the routing process and replace the permitting system as well. They put together a diverse project team, including carriers, industry associations and private contractors, to develop a new system, the Texas Permitting and Routing Optimization System (Tx-PROS).
“The project was highly complex, requiring an extremely lengthy and at times aggressive project timeline,” said Carol Davis, executive sponsor and project board chairwoman. A major hurdle was combining large amounts of data from various sources to produce the base map for routing, she said.
TxPROS was launched in August 2011 at a cost of $1.6 million. Carriers can self-issue permits 24/7 and view online the best route available for avoiding restrictions, including turn-by-turn directions from statewide to street levels. The application uses a modified version of ProMiles Development Corp.’s trucking restriction management system and a commercially available GIS database.
TxPROS has improved self-issue turnaround times — from an average of three hours to 30 minutes or less — and helped MCD generate 24 percent more revenue since it was rolled out. Taxpayers have already recouped the $1.6 million investment in the system. In a June 2012 customer survey, 95 percent of respondents reported that TxPROS is beneficial to their business.
“Project management organization, oversight and communication are keys to success,” Davis said. “Frequent communication, weekly project management team meetings, and risk discussion and mitigation were crucial, even to this day, after implementation.”