October 10, 2012 By Noelle Knell
The Texas DMV is shaving hours off the permitting process for trucking companies and other carriers that are hauling extremely large or heavy loads.
Trucking companies whose loads exceed legal size or weight limits must obtain a permit, and in many cases, a turn-by-turn route from the DMV. These safeguards are in place to ensure drivers avoid known highway obstacles, like low overpasses, that could have dire consequences for safety and efficient traffic flow on the highways of the largest state in the contiguous United States. The process also helps protect the integrity of road surfaces not suited for oversized loads.
A Web-based tool called “TxPROS,” which stands for Texas Permitting and Routing Optimization System, now enables self-permitting for vehicles carrying this large, oddly-sized cargo. The previous system allowed online applications, which were then processed by permit specialists who routed loads manually during regular business hours.
With TxPROS, motor carriers can go online anytime day or night, apply for the necessary permits, pay the related fees, and get a route and driving directions within a few minutes. The system, developed at a cost of $1.6 million over a period of four years, automatically generates an optimal route and driving directions based on the load’s specifications, as provided by the applicant.
Originally developed by the state’s Department of Transportation, the program now resides in the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles, following a move by the state Legislature that took effect Jan. 1, 2012.
Texas officials report some impressive stats since the August 2011 launch of TxPROS. More than half of all oversize/overweight permits, estimated to top 720,000 in the current fiscal year, are now issued online. According to DMV officials, a June 2012 survey revealed that 96 percent of customers agree that the system has benefited their business.
"The TxPROS system is a visionary leap in customer service, safety and efficiency. In the past, navigating our customers on the more than 80,000 miles of state roads was a manual and labor-intensive process, “ explained TxDMV Executive Director Whitney Brewster. “Trucks used to sit idle, sometimes for hours, waiting for permits. But today they can get on the road in the matter of minutes.”
Officials credit the system with adding efficiency to the state economy, and preserving the life of its highway infrastructure by helping to reduce damage with load-appropriate routing.
“TxPROS delivers a quick, automated, technology-based routing system that services a critical component of the Texas economy, the motor carrier industry," Brewster added.
TxPROS recently earned a Smart Solution Spotlight award from the Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITSA). The award recognizes private- and public-sector organizations that employ innovative technology to improve transportation.
According to Texas officials, TxPROS is the first such system to employ GIS to generate customized routing in real time. And other states are taking note — numerous other states are looking to follow suit.
Scott Belcher, ITSA’s President and CEO, said in an announcement of the award: “This investment in technology is already yielding remarkable results for the state and its customers — we hope to see it replicated throughout the country.”
TxPros was also honored this past July by the Center for Digital Government (CDG) at its 2012 Best of Texas awards. The system was recognized as the “Best Application Serving the Public” and the “Best Application Serving an Agency’s Business Needs”. CDG is the research and advisory arm of e.Republic, the parent company of Government Technology.
This Digital Communities white paper highlights discussions with IT officials in four counties that have adopted shared services models. Our aim was to learn about the obstacles these governments have faced when it comes to shared services and what it takes to overcome those roadblocks. We also spoke with several members of the IT industry who have thought long and hard about these issues. The paper offers some best practices for shared government-to-government services, but also points out challenges that government and industry still must overcome before this model gains widespread adoption.