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PierPass Makes TruckTag Mandate

An organization comprised of Southern California marine terminal operators says trucks using the ports must carry RFID tags by Dec. 1.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Oct 02, 2007The number of trucks entering the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach grows an average of 8 percent annually. This makes the ports' twin goal of improving driver security checks while decreasing congestion a formidable task. In early 2005, PierPass, a nonprofit company created by the ports' 13 marine terminal operators, turned to RFID technology to help reach that goal by launching the TruckTag Program (see So. Cal. Terminals Turn to RFID for Trucks). PierPass has now issued a Dec. 1, 2007, deadline requiring all trucks using the ports to carry 2.4 GHz active RFID tags made by RFID systems provider WhereNet.

The program has had strong adoption—more than 16,000 tags, which PierPass calls TruckTags, have been issued to date. This, says Bruce Wargo, president and CEO of PierPass, is close to the total number of trucks using the ports. To encourage adoption, PierPass is distributing the tags free of charge, though in the future, trucking companies will be required to pay a $50 fee for each new tag they receive. Since most drivers are paid for each trip they make, they benefit from expedited processing through the gate. Before the TruckTag program was implemented, each truck underwent a manual inspection, which took more time than inspections carried out in conjunction with the TruckTag.

Similar truck-inspection programs, also using WhereNet tags, have been launched at the Port of Oakland, in California, and Washington's Port of Tacoma. These programs, combined with incentives to use the ports during off-peak hours, have been credited with reducing congestion at the ports and adjacent roads, and with improving air quality in those areas due to the trucks' shortened idling periods.

Each truck is issued a WhereNetIII active, 2.4 GHz tag, which is compliant with the ANSI 371.1 air-interface standard. WhereNet RFID receivers mounted at security gates read the tags before trucks enter the marine terminal gates. To date, Wargo says, at least eight terminal operators have mounted RFID interrogators at the entrance lanes to their marine terminals and installed the software necessary for processing tag IDs.

In the coming months, PierPass plans to migrate to WhereNet's latest tag, the WhereTagIV, which still operates in the 2.4 GHz range but now complies with both the ISO 24730-2 air-interface standard and the Cisco Compatible Extensions (CCX) protocol for tags communicating over Wi-Fi. According to the company, this will not require a new reader infrastructure be installed at the terminals.

Trucking companies must register each TruckTag with eModal, a database firm that maintains a central repository of detailed container, vessel and terminal information. When registering each tag, a trucking company provides the number encoded to the tag's chip (also printed on the tag), as well as the truck's license plate number and its assigned driver's license number.

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