The Johns Hopkins Gazette: October 22, 2001
October 22, 2001
VOL. 31, NO. 8


APL Technology Drives Maryland Vehicle-Screening Initiative

By Michael Buckley
Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

Using an innovative electronic screening process developed by the Applied Physics Laboratory, Maryland and federal transportation agencies on Oct. 18 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, Interstate 95, in Perryville, Md. 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 nationwide.

The system uses a pocket-size transponder attached to a truck's windshield and sensors embedded in and alongside the road to check automatically 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 check quickly the carrier's safety and credentialing information in state and federal databases. Cleared vehicles are signaled to bypass the weigh station without stopping, while those flagged "at risk" are directed into the station for closer inspection.

"The new technology is another effort to look at ways to enforce safety standards more efficiently and to speed up travel time for commercial vehicles in good standing," says John D. Porcari, Maryland transportation secretary and authority chairman. "Every day, we consider new approaches to make Maryland's transportation network one of the best in the nation."

The E-Screening project is part of a five-year, $40 million contract the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration awarded to APL in 1999, through which the Lab supports FHWA, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration and other DOT agency initiatives to develop Intelligent Transportation Systems that increase efficiency, effectiveness and safety of the nation's transportation networks. The work draws heavily on APL's extensive expertise in information technologies, command, control and communications systems, sensors and navigation tools crafted mainly for military applications.

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 Sept. 30, 2003. The Laboratory has worked with commercial vehicle transportation agencies from 34 states on CVISN projects.

"CVISN offers tremendous benefits," says 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."