Smart web services for e-Freight

How can freight transport be improved throughout Europe? The research project e-Freight (European e-Freight capabilities for co-modal transport), which is part of the EU's 7th framework programme, analyses how co-modal logistics chains can be supported or implemented in Europe. As one of the e-Freight project partners PTV has developed a web-based order entry application for the Dutch company Jan de Rijk Logistics, a leading provider of international transportation services who also offers distribution services throughout Benelux countries as well as freight storage and traditional freight forwarding business.

A specific focus was on optimising transportation of air cargo by lorry in order to improve transhipments of air freight containers between different airports. Services which run to fixed schedules have been implemented for this purpose. All information on the services offered by the forwarding agent is stored to the new online order entry system. New orders are stored to a database. Additionally, there are interfaces to the forwarding agent's planning system and the trip optimisation software PTV Smartour. The basic conditions are clear: The schedules are set. However, the number of lorries varies. So what is now the fleet's most effective route schedule? The current order data will be transferred to the planning system via the web interface, a planning run is started and the results are then mirrored back to the system.

The research team has shown that it is possible to implement simple services linked to complex planning systems in the form of distributed architecture and smart web services. Dispatchers can thus better plan their route schedules over a longer period of time. At the same time status messages help them to react more flexibly. Michael Schygulla, Project Manager, PTV Group, explains: "We also want to improve reaction times to unexpected events. To this end, we are currently developing a special event management feature."

Improved data and ETA calculation

Another outcome of the research work was an improved HGV routing procedure which makes arrival time prediction more precise. Due to the integration of specific truck data, the system delivers more accurate information on the estimated arrival times (ETA).

Jan de Rijk operates a fleet of more than 1,000 lorries, handling the daily transport of goods throughout Europe Onboard telematics systems collect information on the daily routes. PTV experts evaluated the data from the last two years. They used multi-level map matching processes to analyse the delays on different route sections, corridors and main routes.

Astonishingly, the analysis revealed that most delays are not caused by road traffic, but rather by transport processes. Moreover, time is often wasted off the main route during off-peak periods. The scientists developed a road editor layer specifically designed for 40-tonne lorries. The layer was integrated into the test system in order to analyse the impact on the routing results calculated by the planning system and in fact, the additional layer provided more precise figures and more accurate (not process-related) times.

"As part of the project we have developed improved routing methods and a more precise ETA calculation for lorries as prototypes. We are now focussing on the development of own time-related truck patterns per segment. However, the data currently available is still insufficient. But we have already started to collect and prepare all necessary data. And thanks to e-Freight we have access to the necessary technology and we can actually use a high-performance system," says Schygulla.

The aim of the research project (project duration: 2010 – 2013) was to analyse the specific requirements in the field of e-Freight in order to implement a formal architecture and a road map for the implementation in Europe.

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