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Aiming for Peak Performance

By [email protected] - 1st June 2010 - 13:36

Amidst the various political juxtapositions of this years general election calling for public spending cuts, the case for making efficiencies and working smarter has always been the case for Geographic Information Systems. The business case for the implementation of a GIS within a Local Authority may be headed by a key function like Planning or Land Charges, knowing that many more functions could also benefit from the establishment of the system. This winter CDR Group has helped Derbyshire County Council Highways department to optimise the spreading of rock salt for winter maintenance, beyond simply mapping out routes.
\"Why wait for the winter chaos? CDR Group has developed an application for MapInfo Professional® to assist Highway Authorities to optimise the spreading of rock salt on public roads. Derbyshire CC embarked on a major project to increase the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of their Winter Maintenance operations and turned to CDR to provide the software to form the vital link between the route planners and the vehicle operators. The software assists with the creation of routes, waypoints and control points for input to TMS in-vehicle system.\" The above News appeared in \"TopTen News\" GeoUK Publication, June/July 2010, Volume 8, Issue 3.Below John Ievers from CDR Group, gives a detailed insight.THE ISSUEBudgetary constraints and the need to provide value-for money services are key issues for UK Local Authorities and nothing new. For Highway Authorities, Winter Maintenance (salting â or better known as âgrittingâ to the public) presents particular challenges due to:⢠the running costs of salting vehicles and crews⢠the cost of rock salt⢠changeable weather conditions⢠high public demand for clear and safe roads⢠the investment cost of holding large stocks of salt.Recognising these issues, in 2009 Derbyshire County Council embarked on a major project to increase the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of their Winter Maintenance operations.THE CHALLENGEDerbyshire County Council is responsible for some 5,500Km of road, of which some 2,500 Km are currently designated as requiring salting. These include some of the most challenging and weather affected roads in England across the Peak District â the A57 âSnake Passâ is a regular item on traffic reports being susceptible to closure when snow falls. The Authority currently operates 47 front line vehicles with a team of 140 drivers based at five strategically located depots. The aim for them, is to ensure that all designated routes are speedily salted, salt is not wasted by salting routes already covered or not designated for salting, whilst ensuring that at least 65% of each salting route should involve salting rather than âdead runningâ. With a cost of around £30,000 every time the Winter Maintenance fleet swings into action, efficiency is paramount.THE SOLUTIONDerbyshire County Councilâs approach to this challenge is based on three key features:⢠Equipping all Winter Maintenance vehicles with a GPS based control system supplied by TMS2 of Abingdon in Oxfordshire that not only provides routing directions to the vehicle operator, but also instructs the operator when to start spreading salt and when to stop⢠The use of the Authorityâs MapInfo Professional corporate GIS system to prepare detailed, accurate routes for a wide range of weather scenarios⢠A software solution to facilitate the rapid creation of routes, and to generate for each route the requisite waypoints and control points for input to in-vehicle control systemCDRâs CONTRIBUTIONDerbyshire County Council turned to their GIS provider CDR Group to provide the software solution to form the vital link between the route planners and the vehicle operators.To this end, CDR has worked closely with the County Council, to develop, test and commission a new application called MISalt. This is an application developed in MapBasic (MapInfoâs programming language) to run within MapInfo Professional providing the following key functionality:⢠Enabling the route planner to rapidly develop detailed route plans for each depot based upon data such as Street Gazetteers or Ordnance Surveyâs ITN data.⢠Enabling the route planner to designate each part of the route as either âsaltingâ or âdead runningâ⢠Ensuring that the route has full connectivity and logical sequencing, giving warnings of any errors in the route such as small gaps or wrong direction, etc.⢠Warning when sections of a route are being salted more than once (This can actually be necessary on some wider sections of the highway)⢠Reporting key statistics such as route length, salting length, sections being salted more than once, route efficiency, etc.⢠Enabling the route planner to quickly define the necessary waypoints to provide navigational instructions to the vehicle operator, along with the control points that will instruct the vehicle operator to start or stop salting. Put this together with more sophisticated instructions such as to salt all the way around an approaching roundabout or to salt after the roundabout.⢠Providing a detailed validation of each route and its associated control points ensuring that the instructions being given are in a logical sequence⢠Enabling the route planner to easily edit / update existing routes or transfer a route from one depot to another⢠Providing full validation of the route after every edit.⢠Outputting the file of waypoints and control points that is then provided as input to the TMS2 in-vehicle control system.⢠Facilitating the display of all routes from a single depot, and indeed the aggregation of all routes from all depots across the whole County, to help identify any shortfalls where part of a designated highway is not being covered. ⢠Easily configured to give flexibility in file naming, directory structures and the types of digital background mapping used, etc.SUMMARYThe severe winter weather at the start of 2010 has thrust the issue of winter maintenance into the public and political spotlight, amply demonstrating Derbyshire County Councilâs foresight in taking steps to improve the flexibility and efficiency of their Winter Maintenance operations. This project is still ongoing as routes continue to be refined.The availability of a GPS system for salting operations that gives the driver route directions and instructions on when to salt or not, will certainly help the County to deliver the winter service accurately and more efficiently. The system will also reduce the time spent in training drivers that are new to routes not travelled by them before.

Author: John Ievers, CDR Group, Specialists in GIS

Bio.: [email protected]

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