West Coast terminals to deploy wireless ID for trucks

West Coast terminals to deploy wireless ID for trucks

LOS ANGELES -- West Coast stevedoring companies plan to install a wireless truck identification system that will expedite the movement of traffic into and out of container terminals.

The system, to be introduced by March 2004, will enhance security and improve operational efficiency at West Coast ports.

This development is significant because the wireless technology that the terminal operators adopt will become the standard for the maritime industry, at least on the West Coast.

A group known as West Coast Marine Terminal Operators is issuing a request for proposals from technology companies to provide an electronic identification system for the estimated 30,000 trucks that move containers to and from the ports.

The most likely technology to be employed is radio frequency identification tags (RFID) or real-time locating system tags (RTLS).

Harbor trucking companies are expected to support the system because it will reduce delays at terminal gates and within the container facilities. Furthermore, terminal operators have agreed to purchase the tags and pay for installation of any equipment required on trucks.

The operators group filed a discussion agreement with the Federal Maritime Commission for permission to take this collective action. A schedule will be published where each terminal operator will require the use of a standard electronic truck tagging technology as a condition to enter the terminal.

The tags will transmit critical information on the truck that will be entered into the terminal's database. By immediately matching the transmission with information in the data base, the terminal will be able to process the truck quickly as it enters the terminal and is assigned a location at which it will pick up or drop off a container. This will help truckers by reducing turn times, which in turn will reduce diesel emissions because trucks will not have to idle as long at the terminals.

California this year enacted a new law that fines terminals for trucks forced to wait more than 30 minutes.

The system is also intended to enhance security by providing the terminal with information on the identification of the trucking company and driver.

Similar technology has been in use for years at ports in Asia and Europe. Also, the technology is used in the warehousing and retail distribution industries, as well as by toll road authorities for the electronic payment of tolls.