Florida outsources truck permits

Florida Department of Transportation

Florida's transportation department has outsourced its permit office for oversize/overweight commercial trucks and is considering ways to automate the office.

Affiliated Computer Services Inc. will get $4.7 million over 5 years to run the state's office for oversize/overweight commercial truck permits. It's apparently the first time a private vendor has entirely taken over the day-to-day permitting operations of this nature among state governments, said Marshall Rickert, vice president of motor vehicle services for ACS. Florida has turned over administrative operations of the permit process but kept responsibility for enforcing safety requirements, he said.

Eventually, Florida may automate its permit process, although state officials are considering to what degree, Rickert said.

Initially, trucking companies may apply over the Internet. A more advanced feature would be automating the entire routine permit process online. In that case, a company's application would be subjected to detailed business rules and parameters, its load and route analyzed and validated via a sophisticated program. The company would be issued a permit through the Internet.

With this level of automation, Rickert said companies could apply around-the-clock. It could also save them money because in some cases, trucking companies employ costly third parties to acquire the permit for them.

ACS has automated a similar process for Montana and is developing one in New Mexico for routine permits. But automated permits for superloads would not likely be considered because of special safety needs for such hauls, Rickert said.

Across the country, more state transportation agencies are outsourcing some aspect of their commercial and mainstream motor vehicle services to private vendors. Budget constraints, increasing populations and greater consumer expectations for better service delivery are driving that trend, Rickert said.

ACS hired eight of the Tallahassee office's 12 state employees, said Rickert, noting productivity has improved because of better business rules for employee efficiency, since ACS took over operations July 1. The remaining employees have retired, transferred or were temporary to begin with, he added.

To make sure that unusually large loads travel on suitable roads, Florida, like all states, requires special permits for trucks that carry hazardous material over highways or transport loads exceeding normally allowed maximum weights or sizes. The state issues 110,000 such permits a year. Now ACS is in charge of ensuring that Florida applicants meet established state requirements and limitations for such hauls.

Routine permits make up 85 percent of the volume and are relatively risk free, said Rickert. The other 15 percent are superloads, he said. In those cases, ACS receives applications and inputs them into the computer system, and state transportation officials review applications "to ensure routing is consistent with highway standards and capacity," he said. In these cases, the state may add conditions or restrictions, such as limiting the hours when a load may be transported.

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