Semisequicentennial Transportation Conference Proceedings
May 1996, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa

AMASCOT: Demonstrating Technology for Automating Collection of Mileage-by-Jurisdiction Data for Commercial Vehicle Fuel Tax and Registration Fee Apportionment

Michael L. Hancock, Bill M. McCall, and Tom Maze

Center for Transportation Reseach and Education,
Iowa State University

To meet requirements for fuel tax and registration fee apportionment, the majority of motor carriers use manual mileage and route-of-travel logs compiled by drivers to generate the necessary fuel tax and registration fee reporting data. This largely manual and paper-based process is a significant source of frustration and costs for motor carriers and states. The Automated Mileage and Stateline Crossing Operational Test (AMASCOT) sought to demonstrate and evaluate technology that would facilitate streamlining of these processes through the use of electronic information and automated processes. A federally funded Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) operational test, the AMASCOT involved motor carrier regulatory agencies in the states of Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, six motor carriers, the Federal Highway Administration, and several private and academic organizations. The project was conducted by fitting prototype automated mileage and route data collection equipment to 30 commercial vehicles operating in their normal course of business throughout the Unites States and Canada. The prototype equipment utilized the Global Positioning System (GPS) in conjunction with other technology to determine and record vehicle travel within jurisdictions, vehicle routes of travel, and vehicle mileage information. Evaluation of the AMASCOT project found that an automated, electronic vehicle mileage and route data collection system was feasible, that GPS could be used as a basis for such a data collection system, and that motor carriers would be likely to adopt such an automated system if it supported other business administration functions. In addition, the AMASCOT estimated the hardware and software costs of implementing such a system for motor carriers, and these estimates indicate that such technology will be affordable for motor carriers that have well developed data processing systems and currently use GPS for fleet management. Key words: commercial vehicle operations, GPS, intelligent transportation systems, ITS, regulation.


This paper summarizes an ITS operational test project investigating an application of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) to Commercial Vehicle Operations (CVO). The United States Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has undertaken efforts to develop and implement ITS in the U.S. The goals for ITS are to enhance transportation safety and efficiency and reduce the need for new highway construction. ITS applications range from metropolitan traffic management to automated toll collection to commercial vehicle operations. The Automated Mileage and Stateline Operational Test (AMASCOT) was conducted by a partnership that included the Iowa Department of Transportation; Rockwell International Corporation; Rand McNally-TDM, Inc.; the Center for Transportation Research and Education; the Minnesota Department of Public Safety; the Wisconsin Department of Transportation; the Western Highway Institute/ATA Foundation; the ATA-affiliated state trucking associations in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin; and the Federal Highway Administration.

The research investigated the application of ITS to the administration of commercial vehicle fuel taxes and registration fees. Motor carriers must pay fuel taxes and registration fees for to each jurisdiction in which their vehicles have traveled. Complicating the payment of fuel taxes and registration fees is the issue of apportioning these taxes and fees to the appropriate jurisdictions to ensure tax and fee payment to each jurisdiction for the miles traveled within that respective jurisdiction by a vehicle.

Currently, most motor carriers rely on data from written mileage and route-of-travel logs compiled by drivers to track the mileage traveled by each vehicle in each jurisdiction. Motor carriers use these manual mileage and route-of-travel logs to generate the necessary fuel tax and registration fee reporting data. Using these data, motor carriers then prepare the required fleet reports (quarterly for fuel tax and annually for registration) correctly apportioning the mileage and corresponding taxes and fees paid to each state in which their vehicles traveled. This largely manual and paper-based process is a significant source of frustration and costs for motor carriers and states.

The main hypothesis of the test was that if the core data for the fuel tax and registration apportionment processes could be collected in an electronic format, these electronic data would support migration from the current costly and frustrating manual processes to more efficient automated processes. Thus, the AMASCOT demonstrated and evaluated an automated system for electronically collecting the necessary mileage and route-of-travel data for use in commercial vehicle fuel tax and registration apportionment.

Electronic data and automated processes have several possible benefits for motor carriers and states alike. In general, possible motor carrier benefits include decreased driver workload, increased accuracy, reduced data entry, more efficient data storage and retrieval, and reduced audit exposure. Similarly, possible benefits for jurisdictional regulatory agencies include reduced data entry, increased accuracy, and improved data access and portability for audits.

The project included evaluation efforts designed to measure the success of the test, determine the feasibility of applying the technology to state and motor carrier business practices, and identify issues that may hinder the application of the technology by motor carriers and states.

TEST TECHNOLOGY

The technologies used in the AMASCOT included those related to the truck system and those related to processing/use of the data. Technologies used on board the vehicles were the Global Positioning System (GPS), a compact database defining jurisdictional boundaries in the United States and Canada, a sophisticated jurisdiction detection algorithm, a mileage and route data collection/storage algorithm, and satellite communications. These technologies established the foundation for automatic detection and collection of mileage and route traveled in jurisdictions by a vehicle. Technologies to enable use of the data included custom software for translating the GPS derived latitude/longitude positions into actual highway designators and/or place names and software suitable for processing the data into International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) and International Registration Plan (IRP) compatible reports.

In-Vehicle Technology

The in-vehicle equipment had two basic functions: It recorded all defined trip events to a non-volatile memory and it transmitted those data back to the project. Defined trip events include trip starts, trip stops, periodic vehicle location readings, border crossings, and sensor outages. Trip events are recorded with an event code, odometer reading, location, time, and date.

GPS was used to ascertain a vehicle's location as it traveled. When a defined event was determined by the mileage and route data algorithm, such as a trip beginning or a border crossing, the system recorded the event code, vehicle mileage, vehicle location, and date and time. To determine when the vehicle crossed a jurisdictional boundary, the jurisdiction detection algorithm would check the vehicle's current position against the jurisdictional boundary database for the jurisdiction in which the vehicle was traveling. When the algorithm determined the vehicle had left the jurisdiction and entered another, the system would record the border crossing event and associated information.

When enough trip events were recorded to fill a data message, they were bundled together along with a sequence number, driver ID, vehicle ID, and carrier ID. As conditions permitted, the bundled information was transmitted back to the project. For the test, data transmission occurred approximately every 24 hours. Collected data would be bundled by vehicle into weekly packets.

Data Processing Technology

The data processing/use system had three basic functions: (1) conversion of lat/long readings to highway designators and/or place names; (2) identification of vehicle travel on non-taxable road segments; and (3) integration and tabulation of the data into IFTA data and reports. The custom route mileage software was used to convert lat/long readings into readable highway designators and/or place names. The custom software also identified vehicle travel on

defined non-taxable road segments and inserted the appropriate data record into the file. Commercially available database software was used to integrate and tabulate the data into mock IFTA filing reports.

TEST METHODOLOGY

The test was planned to first demonstrate the feasibility of using GPS and other technologies to automate the collection of mileage and route-of-travel data and then to test these technologies in operation. Correspondingly, the test consisted of (1) prototype development and validity testing; (2) actual operational test and data collection and processing; and (3) evaluation of the prototype data collection system.

Prototype Development and Validity Test

Following IFTA and IRP guidelines for the use of electronic data collection methods, the technology provider worked with the project partners to develop a prototype mileage and route data collection system. To ensure the validity of moving forward to the operational test portion of the project, the AMASCOT Evaluation Subcommittee defined a validity test for the prototype system. Because the ability of the system and data to meet IFTA and IRP requirements was paramount in the test, IFTA and IRP auditors from the involved states played a large role in the development and conduct of the validity test.

For the validity test, the prototype system was fitted to a passenger van and the output from the system was routed to a personal computer and video display. This allowed members of the Evaluation Subcommittee to ride aboard the vehicle and see the system data as they were collected. The validity test was conducted in the tri-state (Iowa-Wisconsin-Illinois) area around Dubuque, Iowa. This area provided convenient access to three jurisdictional boundaries that could be utilized in the validity test. Validity test measures included driving the vehicle along a meandering route very close to a border to test for false indication of a border crossing, obscuring the GPS antenna, disconnecting the GPS antenna, interrupting the power supply, comparing certified mileage of a known route to mileage recorded by the electronic odometer, comparing a manual log to the electronic log, and other measures.

Based on the results of the validity test, the Evaluation Subcommittee found that the prototype system had the potential to meet IFTA and IRP requirements and therefore recommended that the AMASCOT move ahead with the operational test phase of the project.

Operational Test

The operational test portion of the AMASCOT consisted of data collection and processing for a fleet of 30 commercial vehicles over a period of 90 days. To obtain 30 vehicles, six motor carriers, two from each participating state, were recruited to provide five vehicles each. The six motor carriers covered a range of operational characteristics and included a small, for-hire food-grade tank carrier; a large, private carrier of agricultural products; a small, for-hire truckload carrier; a large, for-hire truckload carrier; a medium-sized, for-hire food-grade tank carrier; and a fleet-leasing company.

The 30 vehicles were equipped with the prototype equipment and were operated in their normal course of business throughout the United States and Canada. An end-to-end beta-test of the prototype data collection system and the data processing system was conducted from January through April 1995, prior to the official data collection period. This allowed for modifications to these systems prior to the data collection period. During the end-to-end beta-test, data were being collected and processed for over 20 vehicles. These vehicles traveled more than 450,000 miles, recorded nearly 30,000 data events, and experienced nearly 2,000 border crossings.

The official 30-vehicle, 90-day data collection period ran from May through July 1995 and resulted in nearly one million miles of data collection. During these nearly one million miles, the 30 vehicles logged over 63,000 data events with nearly 3,400 of these being border crossing events.

Project Evaluation

In general, the project evaluation encompassed three primary areas: (1) truck system and electronic data interchange; (2) state agency costs, benefits, and acceptance; and (3) motor carrier acceptance and benefits. The evaluation was planned and directed by the Evaluation Subcommittee.

The truck system and electronic data interchange evaluation focused on

For further information on the AMASCOT state agency evaluation efforts, consult the AMASCOT Evaluation Report on State Agency Costs, Benefits, and Acceptance (2 ).

The motor carrier acceptance and benefits evaluation focused on

More information regarding the motor carrier evaluation can be found in the AMASCOT Evaluation Report on Motor Carrier Acceptance and Benefit (3 ).

EVALUATION FINDINGS

Successful completion and evaluation of the AMASCOT resulted in a number of findings. These findings are highlighted in the following sections.

Truck System and EDI

Evaluation of the truck system and EDI found that automated mileage and route data collection and EDI is feasible for IFTA and IRP reporting. Analysis of the electronic data produced by the prototype system indicates that electronic data collection using GPS can accurately log vehicle mileage by jurisdiction. In fact, repeatability of border crossing detection was 75 feet.

Processing and auditing of the data following IFTA requirements also indicated that the system is able to produce data that can easily be used to meet IFTA and IRP reporting and auditibility requirements. State auditor members of the Evaluation Subcommittee audited the electronically collected mileage and route data using a number of commonly used audit techniques and found the data to be acceptable for IFTA and IRP reporting and auditing.

Lastly, cost estimates for motor carriers to incorporate automated data collection suggest that such systems will be affordable, particularly for those motor carriers who are already highly automated and incorporating GPS vehicle tracking and communications for fleet management. Table 1 provides cost estimates for carriers ranging from small with only basic data processing to medium with well developed data processing and vehicle communications and tracking to large with advanced data processing and vehicle communications and tracking. See the AMASCOT Evaluation Report on the Truck System and EDI (1) for specific details on the hypothesized equipment needs, costs, and the hypothesized carriers.

State Costs, Benefits, and Acceptance Findings

The evaluation of state costs, benefits, and acceptance found that states could benefit from automated mileage and route data collection and EDI for IFTA and IRP reporting. State IFTA and IRP processing staff identified increased reporting accuracy, decreased data entry, and time savings that could be reallocated to other duties as likely benefits. Likely benefits identified by state auditing personnel identified increased data portability, decreased data

entry, and time savings that could be used to perform additional audits.

Possible costs savings were not estimated due to the dependence of savings on the rate of implementation of automated data collection by motor carriers. However, state personnel indicated that states do not spend a large amount of money for IFTA and IRP administration. For those states able to identify their costs, IFTA and IRP administration and auditing cost less than $200,000 in 1994. State personnel indicated that benefits were not likely to result in large monetary savings but would allow agencies to reallocate saved resources to improving services or offering needed services that had been discontinued due to resource shortfalls.

Institutional issues related to state support of EDI for IFTA and IRP filing included a lack of standards for electronic submission IFTA and IRP data, a lack of payment processes and communication facilities to support EDI, and staff resistance to EDI due to concerns over job security.

Overall, the evaluation of state costs, benefits, and acceptance found that electronic collection of mileage and route data for IFTA and IRP would provide a number of benefits. These benefits are most likely to result in improved services to motor carriers for IFTA and IRP or other motor carrier regulatory functions pinched by state staff and budget limitations. The barriers impeding state support of EDI for IFTA and IRP filing are manageable, with the most difficult being obtaining the financial or staff resources to integrate electronic data into current state data processing systems.

TABLE 1 Cost Estimates for Hypothesized Motor Carriers
Cost Category Small carrier 30 trucks Medium carrier 200 trucks Large Carrier 1200 trucks

In-vehicle recorder $600 - 800 /truck $400 - 500 /truck $400 - 500 /truck
Data extraction
Vehicle equipment $300 - 400 /truck Cellular costs Satellite/cellular costs
Terminal equipment RF modem $800 Computer $2000

Data processing upgrades $5000 $1000 Staff time
Report communication
Modem $100 Already equipped for EDI Already equipped for EDI
Software $100
Data archiving/auditing
Data storage costs $0 May be a net gain $0 May be a net gain $0 May be a net gain
Conversion software $1000 $1000 $1000

Total $36,000 - 45,000 $82,000 - 102,000 $481,000 - $601,000
Total per truck $1,200 - 1,500 $410 - 510 + communication costs $401 - 501 + staff time and communication costs
Motor Carrier Costs and Acceptance Findings

The evaluation of motor carrier costs and acceptance resulted in a number of findings, some of which were suggested from the truck system and EDI evaluation. For example, the motor carrier evaluation found that while two-thirds of the participating carriers agreed that automated data collection would have positive benefits, those motor carriers with well developed data processing systems and that are already implementing GPS for fleet management valued these benefits more and indicated a greater interest in investigating implementation of automated data collection.

In addition, four (of six) participating motor carriers indicated that automated data collection and EDI for IFTA and IRP compliance could cut their costs for IFTA and IRP administration. Possible savings identified by motor carriers ranged from 33 percent to 50 percent. However, even with the possibility of these savings, motor carriers noted that the costs of implementing such technology could outweigh these savings for IFTA and IRP administration. As a result, motor carriers agreed that the automated data collection system would need to support motor carrier functions other than IFTA and IRP compliance, such as payroll (many payrolls are based on mileage), DOT log, etc., to be considered for implementation.

Motor carriers expressed some concern over how such electronic data might be audited. In particular, motor carriers indicated that for all records required by IFTA and IRP to be kept and made available, auditors should request the necessary data rather than expect simultaneous access to all archived records.

CONCLUSIONS

An automated data mileage and route data collection system using GPS is feasible for meeting IFTA and IRP requirements. States and motor carriers agree that such a system in combination with EDI would aid in streamlining their processes and reducing their costs. Such automated data collection systems for IFTA and IRP are relatively affordable and are most likely to be implemented by motor carriers with well developed data processing systems and who are using or would like to be using GPS vehicle tracking and communications to aid in fleet management.

Barriers to implementation can be solved. States are currently working within the IFTA and IRP organizations to develop the necessary standards for EDI. While the issue of states being able to marshal the necessary resources to equip for EDI is not likely to disappear, investments to support EDI between states and motor carriers become much more likely once standards have been developed.

REFERENCES
  1. Automated Mileage and Stateline Crossing Operational Test: Evaluation Report on the Truck System and Electronic Data Interchange. Center for Transportation Research and Education, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, April 1996.
  2. Automated Mileage and Stateline Crossing Operational Test: Evaluation Report on State Agency Costs, Benefits, and Acceptance. Center for Transportation Research and Education, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, April 1996.
  3. Automated Mileage and Stateline Crossing Operational Test: Evaluation Report on Motor Carrier Acceptance and Benefits. Center for Transportation Research and Education, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, April 1996.

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