A program is underway in Texas in which trucks coordinate with smart traffic signals to keep freight rolling rather than stopping for red lights.   -  Photo: Canva/HDT Illustration

A program is underway in Texas in which trucks coordinate with smart traffic signals to keep freight rolling rather than stopping for red lights. 

Photo: Canva/HDT Illustration

An ongoing technology-driven effort by the North Central Texas Council of Governments is conducting a five-year program to implement intelligent traffic signal optimization — allowing trucks to make fewer stops for traffic lights. It has started operation in part of the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Using intelligent signal optimization to reduce traffic-light stops for trucks not only gets the freight to its destination more quickly, but also more efficiently, according NCTCOG’s Freight Signal Optimization Program. An added benefit is the expectation that emissions will be reduced as a result of trucks not idling while waiting on traffic signals to turn green.

According to Freight North Texas, part of NCTCOG, the program went live in June 2023, with full system operation estimated for June 2024. The system will operate, and assessment will continue, through 2028.

The North Texas Innovation Alliance, a regional consortium of nearly 30 municipalities, agencies, corporations, and academic institutions across North Texas, is supporting the NCTCOG Freight North Texas's program. NTXIA said its cross-sector partnerships and innovation help reduce idling and thereby improve public health and more efficient fleet operation and goods delivery.

Smart Signal Implementation

The Freight Signal Optimization Program provides two cloud-based services to help reduce trucks having to stop at traffic lights and more than 1,000 intersections are currently served. Ultimately, the technology will be installed and active at more than 2,000 intersections located in key areas between distribution hubs and major highways.

Highlights of the program, according to an information sheet available at FreightPriority.com, include:

  • No new hardware is installed at traffic signals.
  • No new hardware is installed on trucks.
  • There are no changes to any city advanced traffic management system software.
  • Smart Priority app works with any traffic controller compliant with National Transportation Communications for ITS Protocol with signal priority capability.
  • Works with any high-resolution automatic vehicle location feed from a variety of third-party systems.
  • Can be used by freight operators without automatic vehicle location by using the EcoDrive app.

How it Works

As a truck moves along its route, the vehicle’s GPS data is shared with the EcoDrive and Smart Priority software. A driver with the EcoDrive app will be advised when the traffic light will change, and the app will display a recommended speed the truck should travel so it reaches the signal as it is ready to turn green.

The flipside of that equation is how the Smart Priority app can manage the cycle of the light to coordinate with the truck’s arrival.

It receives the truck’s location information from either the existing AVL system or the EcoDrive app. With that information, the Smart Priority system can adjust the timing of the traffic light to coordinate with the truck’s arrival at the intersection.

“So what happens is when we identify that the truck is approaching a traffic signal, through a process that we call geofencing, if that signal supports the special commands that we send, then we can request the signal to provide more time for the truck,” explained Doug Gettman, Ph.D, global director of smart mobility for Kimley-Horn, during a PrePass Eyes on the Road podcast.

Kimley-Horn and Associates is providing project management, engineering design, and freight optimization software for the Freight Signal Optimization Program.

Gettman pointed out several examples of how all the tech comes together to keep the freight flowing through the selected DFW areas. First, the speed recommendation to the truck, if followed by the driver, will allow the truck to reach the intersection while the light is green. That means no change to the traffic signal’s timing.

However, if the program controlling the light sees a truck will arrive while the light is still red, then that light can turn green earlier than planned so the truck can continue without stopping. In the case of a truck that might arrive just as a light turns from green to red, the green light can be extended to let the truck safely pass through without stopping.

Gettman clarified that none of this stockpiles data on the trucks. The entire program is simply in place to coordinate easier freight flow through the traffic corridors.

“Once we've provided the green time for the truck to get through the signal, all of that GPS data is destroyed,” he explained.

How to Participate

There is no cost to the truckers or truck fleets to take advantage of the Freight Signal Optimization Program. All costs are being covered by NCTCOG through the end of 2028. After that, there will be what Gettman called nominal fees.

Interested fleets, or owner-operators, can sign up by visiting FreightPriority.com.

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