Smart highway to speed truckers to market

by Carroll McCormick

MONTREAL, Que. – The use of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) on Autoroute 15, first announced in late 2001 and to come fully on stream in early 2007, will use the concept of risk management to selectively target northbound trucks after crossing the Champlain-Lacolle border from New York State’s I-87 onto the A15.

A traditional truck inspection station is like a fine-mesh fish net: it sweeps in everything, regardless of the degree of likelihood of a truck being in violation of highway regulations.

A risk-based security system, however, considers pre-existing information about users, in this case, carriers: In the rough, those with a proven low likelihood of being in violation may bypass the inspection station, but Societe de l’assurance automobile (SAAQ) officers can invite in unknown trucks, or those with a history of non-compliant behaviour for a closer look, using Variable Message Signs (VMS) with the pictogram: ‘Trucker please present yourself to the inspection station’ or some such.

A new truck inspection station under construction just 2.7 kilometres north of the border will be the first in Quebec, and just the third in Canada to link ITS systems to government agency databases on carriers. This is how it will work:

Once a truck leaves the Customs plaza and crosses the intersection, its plate number will be captured by a character recognition camera and transmitted immediately to the SAAQ managing system. The inspector in the new inspection station will see the carrier’s dossier on his or her computer. Within the next 400 metres a transponder reader will pick up the truck’s transponder ID, also associated with the carrier’s dossier in the SAAQ computers.

The transponder, with an accuracy rate of nearly 98 per cent, double checks what the character recognition camera thinks it sees, as mud and bad weather limit its read rate to 50-60 per cent.

Most trucks working the New York State Thruway Authority already have transponders for the E-ZPass tolls, and need only contact NORPASS (; 877-224-7336) and give them the information that will let them transmit their access code to the SAAQ.

“It is no more complicated than that. We expect to have a high percentage of transponder-equipped trucks by the time the inspection centre opens in September,” says Benoit Cayouette, a senior transportation advisor with Transports Quebec’s Economic Policy Division of the Road Safety and Trucking Division.

“We expect the rate of non-equipped trucks will be 25-30 per cent,” adds Cayouette. The SAAQ pegs the cost of a new transponder at about US$45, also available form NORPASS; Cayouette notes that the safety code allows the placement of transponders in truck windows.

By about the same time that the carrier’s delicates pop up on the inspector’s screen, its truck will have also passed a height detector and crossed a Weigh in Motion (WIM) scale imbedded in the road. New signage will warn truckers to stay in the right lane for info-capture; sneaking around the WIM will cost $350.

The WIM takes the weight of each axle, the total weight and notes the distance between each axle and determines into which class each tractor-trailer falls.

“Instantly the WIM (scale) gives the information to the system whether you are above or below the maximum weight allowed. If you are overweight, the inspector can pull you into the station,” Cayouette explains.

All of this intelligence, which represents a sizable federal and provincial investment, is aimed to keep more trucks rolling.

“This is where the truck community benefits,” Cayouette says. “If you have a good record and are within weight, we have much less reason to see you. If you are a non-compliant carrier, we will focus more attention on you.”

Transports Quebec, in collaboration with SAAQ, is developing an information campaign designed to get the news out to carriers. More information on the use of transponders and the new inspection station can be found on the Forum on Trucking Web site, at

Questions about the transponders can be directed to Paul Sauve, an analyst at the highway security division at SAAQ, at 418-528-3573.

Southbound, two ITS functionalities will detect congestion, the length of the border queues and the approximate wait time and display this information on VMSs. Truckers can experiment with using this information to decide whether to join the queues or take Exit 6 for a coffee or a rest. The same information will be posted on the Transports Quebec Web site, and dispatchers may also be able to use it to advise their drivers whether to head into the traffic or break for coffee.

Notably, explains Cayouette, “I have arranged to give this delay information to the Canada Border Services Agency and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection too so they can manage their operation according to the situation. We would like them to use this information to keep the traffic as fluid as possible.”

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