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21st technology is upon us. The ability to accomplish more in less time, with less effort, is increasing exponentially. The sophistication and speed of computers in today’s modern world have opened up doors to productivity that were only dreamed about a decade ago. One of the biggest areas of technological advances is in the use global information systems, or GIS. The precise pinpoint location information beaming down from satellites is truly astounding…and the talent of programmers to harness that data is just as incredible. In the very near future, the Illinois Department of Transportation will be launching a revolutionary way for truckers to obtain permits.

Currently, the IDOT permit office offers online permitting for a small selection of the vast array of permits authorized by the Illinois Vehicle Code. With thousands of permit customers ordering over $14 million worth of permits on an annual basis, the time had come to modernize the system. The product IDOT will soon unveil will provide permits not just for routine movements, but also limited continuous and eventually superload permits…instantaneously. It is called ITAP, short for Illinois Transportation Automated Permits. Over the last 18 months, the Illinois Department of Transportation has put GIS to work by creating a highly sophisticated and cutting edge automated permitting system set to roll out on late October or early November 2012.

Like all new things, there is a learning curve. No new technological initiative works 100% the moment the switch is thrown. The system requires data from people who make mistakes, so there will be some hiccups while the trucking customers learn the new way of obtaining permits. To prepare for this, IDOT has conducted several in-person training seminars for the trucking industry in both Springfield and in Schaumburg. They have recorded a 90-minute webinar to train customers about the system. Prior to the launch date, IDOT will conduct a live webinar to clarify any last minute modifications. Several emails advising the permit customers to study up on the new system have been sent out. IDOT has done their due diligence…if you are a permit customer, have you done yours?

Given the broad customer base, the permit office phones will be jammed the first few weeks after launch. Customers who have not learned the system ahead of time will discover phone support will be sparse. It is the job of the trucking industry to learn how to access the system.

For several years, IDOT was interested in using a 3rd party software to automate the permitting system. The lesson learned was outside software solutions would not provide timely answers to complex problems affecting Illinois trucking. Instead, IDOT eventually turned to in-house IT and GIS personnel to write a custom program. By doing this, IDOT saved the taxpayers $1.7 million and provided a system to make immediate corrections and modifications to the system.

Once logged in, permit customers will see the most current announcements affecting permitting. They will be able to store all their vehicle and fleet information into a “vehicle library” so that they will not have to re-enter info for each permit. Companies that use the same route multiple times will be able to save “common routes” in another library. Are there origins and destinations the customer goes to on a regular basis? If so, there is a library for that as well.

Once the customer knows where to start and end, the interactive GIS map will automatically suggest the best route based on the weight and size dimensions of the vehicle/load. Mileage can be calculated by clicking the mouse on the highways. Way-points can be added to adjust the route onto different highways. If the routing takes the vehicle off the State highway system, the roads are highlighted green to warn the customer it is a local route and may require local permits. Weight restricted structures, vertical clearances, and tollroad limitations are all built into the mapping software.

Once the final routing is established, the permit will instantly come up as PDF file. It can be emailed, faxed, snail-mailed, or picked up in person…whatever the customer needs. Instead of the old road-by-road routing, turn-by-turn directions will be provided, again listing highways off the State system. Individual axle and tandem weights will be listed on an easy to understand chart.

Initially this system will handle all routine permits, including quarterly and annual LCO’s. It will also issue some legal weight/oversize superload permits. Phase-2 will automate almost all superloads. Phase-3 will not only notify about which roads are local, but the local road authority itself.

Truck enforcement officers will also be able to access this new system to verify permits. While the truckers may not like this, in the end it will save them valuable time when stopped. The police officer will be able to instantly confirm the validity of the permit and send the driver on his way.

The benefits of this new system are huge. It will take IDOT, the trucking industry, and law enforcement working together to make this a success. Patience, good judgment, and wise discretion are a must.

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