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Student Thesis and Dissertations

Economic Implications of the Use of Technology in Commercial Vehicle Operations

Publication Date: 2012

The effective and efficient movement of freight is essential to the economic well-being of our country but freight transport also adversely impacts our society by contributing to a large number of crashes, including those resulting in injuries and fatalities. Technology has been used increasingly to facilitate safety and operational improvements within commercial vehicle operations, but motor carriers operate on small profit margins, limiting their ability to make large investments without also seeing an economic benefit from such technologies. This dissertation explores the economic implications associated with using onboard monitoring systems to enhance safety in commercial vehicle operations.

First, to better understand how electronic on-board systems work, paper-based methods of recording driver hours of service are compared to automated (or electronically recorded) hours of service for three motor carriers using process analysis. This analysis addressed the differences between manual (paper-based) and electronic methods of recording hours of service, specifically as they relate to the frequencies and magnitude of the errors. Potential errors are categorized by operations within an information-based process and the findings suggest that a reduction of errors can be achieved with an electronic system.

A benefit-cost analysis provides a better understanding of the economic implications of onboard monitoring systems from the perspective of the carrier. In addition to the benefits of reduced crashes, benefits associated with electronic recording of hours of service, reduced mileage, and reduced fuel costs are considered. A sensitivity analysis is used and demonstrates that on-board monitoring systems are economically viable under a wide range of conditions. Results indicate that, for some fleet types, reducing crashes and improving hours of service recording, provides a net benefit of close to $300,000 over the five-year expected lifespan of the system. Furthermore, when exploring additional benefits such as reduced fuel consumption and reduced vehicle miles, benefits can be upwards of seven times more than safety-related benefits. This research also shows that net positive benefits are possible in large and small-sized fleets. Results can be used to inform policies for motivating or mandating carriers to use such systems and to inform carriers regarding the value of system investment.

Authors: Kelly A. Pitera
Recommended Citation:
Pitera, Kelly Ann. "Economic Implications of the Use of Technology in Commercial Vehicle Operations." PhD diss., 2012.
Thesis: Array