Letter: One-Stop Shop

This Letter to the Editor appears in the June 24 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

One-Stop Shop

Local permits: Perhaps no two words in the world of oversize/overweight permitting cause more consternation to carriers and local officials.

Thanks to persistence and innovative thinking by the carrier industry — and state and local officials — a more efficient process is developing that allows for the possibility of pain-free, seamless carrier travel across the nation.

Diverse organizations ranging from carriers and law enforcement to utility contractors and permit officials have been collaborating and tackling issues of joint concern.

Prevailing themes include equity and harmonization of regulations, pricing, enforcement and improved technology, as well as centralization and uniformity in permit issuance.

A 2011 law directed Ken Jennings — then director of the Virginia Motor Carrier Services — to form the Permit Equity Study task force, giving the group the combined objectives of developing a uniform system of permitting and a comprehensive, tiered schedule of fees.

A key member of the task force was Dean Godwin, a local law enforcement and permit official who said, “When the state became motivated by the need to make the Virginia ports more accessible, we saw this as an opportunity to bring all the parties together to achieve something unique in the permitting world.”

From the Permit Equity task force came legislation coupling the permit fee increase with the inauguration of one-stop shop permitting. Today, carriers may apply for local annual permits through Virginia’s recently updated automated permitting system.

Wayne Davis, deputy director of motor carrier size and weight services, said more permits, including some single trips, will be added as more local jurisdictions climb onboard.

Task-force member Doug Ball, Specialized Carriers & Rigging Association vice president, commented: “We cannot forget transportation of overdimensional cargo is a partnership between government, enforcement and industry, and you can’t have a true partnership without trust, respect for each other and meaningful dialogue.”

Improving commerce, customer service and continuous harmonization of city and state processes led the state of Maryland and the city of Baltimore to expand the issuance of all permits within the states’ automated permit system. Officials anticipate this “one-stop shop” to be available for customers by the end of 2013.

“Making it easy for customers to comply is a win-win for everyone, as it keeps the companies compliant and the roads safer,” Maryland Motor Carrier Division’s Tina Sanders said. “Many concerns are brought to our attention at conferences such as the SC&RA Transportation Symposium. We sat down with groups, including SC&RA, to find a solution that now benefits the industry as a whole. . . . Once we brought all stakeholders to the table, we found a beneficial solution for all.”

Similar discussions are taking place across the country, including Minnesota, where the County Engineers Association is progressing on an innovative one-stop shop permitting solution in which carriers could access local permits for all 87 counties and many cities from one portal.

Polk County engineer Richard Sanders credits SC&RA members for bringing industry concerns forward as well as the initial idea of combining all local jurisdictions into a single site.

SC&RA recently brought to Illinois authorities’ attention that carriers were being required to obtain separate permits for crossing dozens of Illinois Tollway Authority structures while traveling on state highways. As a result, the Illinois Department of Transportation now issues one permit for the roadway and the structure, saving carriers time and resources.

Illinois Truck Enforcement Association’s Bryce Baker issues and enforces permits through his local police department. Baker contends, “At times, there is too much bureaucracy on the local side of permitting as to control of process, inability to provide effective and timely technological solutions and a lack of communication between departments. Easy application, quick turnaround and fair pricing ideally should be the goal of all local governments.”

A common denominator is the recent technological advancements in automated oversize/overweight routing and bridge analysis. Center stage at many such projects is Bentley Systems, a global software solutions company with 22 state-level users of its systems.

Bentley Systems  Inc. Director Dan Vogen reports, “Due to many local governments’ insufficient budgets and limited staff, Bentley has integrated multiple jurisdictions into one system, such as West Virginia, where carriers submit one application for both state and West Virginia Turnpike permits.”

The most powerful outcome may be the recognition that government officials, law enforcement, carriers, etc., are not ordained adversaries destined to undermine the effectiveness of other stakeholders. The benefits of one-stop shop permitting are numerous:

• Increase in contingency responsiveness, future planning and engineering.

• Increased communication across all stakeholders.

• Fair, consistent pricing and enforcement.

• Increase in safety and compliant travel across all jurisdictions, decreasing delays and unnecessary penalties.

• Increase in trust, cooperation and respect among stakeholders by decreasing acrimony, confusion and disputes over the dynamic reality of regulations.

Steven Todd

Director of Advocacy

Specialized Carriers & Rigging Association

Centreville, Va.