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Description of Project

The project was a nationwide expansion of the Commercial Vehicle Information Systems and Networks (CVISN) Program, which provides electronic credentialing and screening of commercial vehicles to improve their safety and efficiency. The CVISN program was begun by the Office of Motor Carriers of the FHWA in the mid-1990s as a Model Deployment Initiative. It was implemented in Maryland and Virginia in 1996, and later in eight additional states.

Purpose of Project

The project is intended to enhance the safety and efficiency of commercial vehicles nationwide. Benefits include lower costs for vehicle credentialing and operations and more effective safety inspections. Trucks with good safety records save time by bypassing inspection stations at highway speeds. The public benefits from the program through decreased energy consumption and noise pollution. In addition, a more effective inspection system will result in safer commercial vehicles on the road and thus fewer heavy truck accidents.

Uses of the Results

This analysis will be used to examine the potential benefits and costs of implementing a nationwide CVISN program. This information can help determine whether the program would be a prudent public investment.

Agency Perspective

The Office of Motor Carriers in the FHWA, now called the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), established the CVISN program and the Model Deployment Initiative. They are interested in determining the net benefits of a nationwide implementation of the program.

Base Case

The base case used in this analysis is the current commercial vehicle transportation system in states without the CVISN program.

Alternatives Considered

For this study, a benefit-cost analysis was conducted separately for each of the two CVISN components, electronic credentialing and roadside enforcement, because the categories of benefits and costs are different and investment decisions are likely to be made separately regarding the two components.

Three alternatives were considered for the roadside enforcement element of the CVISN program. The first alternative included an upgrade of inspection station computer systems, but without electronic screening. The second alternative included the upgrades from the first scenario along with electronic screening and additional station improvements. The third alternative entailed the same as the second, with the added assumption that the motor carrier safety regulation violation rate will decrease by 25%. Because this alternative involves only a change in assumptions from the second alternative, it should be treated as a sensitivity analysis.

Two alternatives were considered for the electronic credentialing element of the CVISN program, both involving upgrades to existing systems. The first involved credentialing for states not using the Vehicle Information System for Tax Apportionment (VISTA), and the second for those states currently using VISTA.

Type of Analysis

For this analysis, the b/c ratio and present worth measures were used with a 7% discount rate.

Geographic Scope

The scope of this project was nationwide. Currently, the CVISN Model Deployment Initiative program exists in 10 states. The proposed project involves implementing CVISN in all states.

Time Period for Analysis

The time period for the analysis was from 2000 to 2025. Benefits were assumed to be immediate, with a one-time startup cost in 2000.

Benefits, Magnitude, and Value

Safety is a major benefit of the CVISN project. To calculate the value of this benefit, an average truck accident cost of $64,985 was used.

For commercial vehicle travel time savings, a value of $80/h was used. This value is found by adding $70/h commercial vehicle operating cost and $10/h time value of goods shipped by truck.

In order to account for the value of decreased air pollutants, a pollutant value of $2.33/h was assigned to a 14.8 ton truck traveling at 60mph and $0.099/h to an idling heavy-duty diesel truck. Heavy truck traffic is also a major source of noise pollution for areas near truck routes. An estimated value of 0.045 cents/ton-mi was used to calculate noise pollution savings. Both of these negative benefits are included in the transit-time savings in the table below.

The total value of the benefits are shown in the tables below.


The costs associated with the implementation and operation of the system are the start-up costs and the ongoing costs of the CVISN program. This includes periodic equipment replacement.


All dollar amounts in the following tables reflect the present value in 1999 U.S. dollars discounted at 7%.

Benefit-Cost Analysis for Roadside Enforcement Scenarios
Scenario 1
Scenario 2
Scenario 3
Crashes avoided
Transit-time savings (including O&M and air/noise pollution)
Total benefits
One time startup costs to states
Replacement capital costs to states
Increased operating costs to states
Increased operating costs to carriers
Increased OOS costs to carriers
Total Costs
Total (Net Present Worth)
Benefit/Cost Ratio

Benefit-Cost Analysis for Electronic Credentialing
Scenario 1
Scenario 2
Operating cost savings to states
Operating cost savings to carriers
Inventory cost savings to carriers
Total Benefits
One time startup cost to states
Replacement capital costs to states
Total Costs
Total (Net Present Value)
Benefit/Cost Ratio


Estimates were made using data from participating states and data on commercial vehicle operations activity nationwide.

Sensitivity Analysis Performed

The third roadside enforcement alternative provides a type of sensitivity analysis by changing some of the assumptions. With an assumed 25% reduction in the motor carrier safety regulation violation rate, the benefits of the project increase.

Critique — Strengths and Weaknesses

This report provides a thorough benefit-cost analysis for a proposed commercial vehicle Intelligent Transportation System. This analysis is particularly interesting because private firms (trucking companies) experience many of the benefits. However, there is currently only a small body of literature pertaining to value of time for commercial vehicles, so an accurate time value for heavy trucks may be difficult to estimate. A sensitivity analysis could have been used to determine how the results would differ with a different value of time.

In addition, a more thorough explanation of the alternatives considered could be helpful. As they are defined in this report, the alternatives are a little difficult to follow. Finally, a more detailed description of the models used would be helpful.


Brand, D., T. E. Parody, J. E. Orban, and V. J. Brown. "Benefit-Cost Analysis of the Commercial Vehicle Information Systems and Networks Program." Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, No. 1800, TRB, National Research Council, Washington, D.C., 2002. pp. 35-43.