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Project Background and Objectives

As part of His Majesty King Abdallah II’s ongoing economic modernization initiatives, in early 2005 Jordan’s focus fell on its freight transportation system. In Aqaba, Jordan’s only seaport and a primary logistics center, where trucking services ran under a antiquated system of long queues, fixed rates, and poor performance, the Ministry of Transport and the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (“ASEZA”) set forth the objective of deregulating the sector. Aqaba’s leaders also sought to create an attractive environment for hotel, resort, and retail development by alleviating truck traffic on city streets and congestion around the port without impeding the ongoing development of the port itself.

To address these objectives ASEZA envisioned the development of a Truck Control System (“TCS”), consisting of a regulatory framework, physical infrastructure, and IT systems to manage the movement of commercial trucks entering the Aqaba Special Economic Zone (the “Zone”) and to provide a platform for coordinating this activity between freight agents, trucking companies, and truck drivers in a deregulated environment. Today, the TCS is a reality: the largest e-government system in Jordan with hundreds of concurrent users coordinating thousands of truck movements each day with obvious positive impacts.

Aqaba, an ancient seaport, settled for millennia, has developed significantly in recent decades. Its terminals support import and export of fuel, bulk, and containerized cargo and play an obviously critical role in the Jordanian economy. While through privatization and increased investment, Jordan had modernized the port terminals, the trucking services to and from them operated under a cartel-managed queuing system that promoted inefficiency, prolonged use of old, polluting trucks, and clogged terminals and main traffic arteries.

TCS Solution
The government began deregulating these services and putting in place a system to coordinate truck operations in Aqaba. First, the Ministry of Transport required truck owner-operators to organize under companies rather than through the cartel. Freight agents could then negotiate rates and service levels with the companies of their choosing. ASEZA and the Ministry then passed a regulation for the operation of the TCS, specifying the need for a Zone entry permit and stipulating that movement within the Zone would be controlled. Only trucks already contracted for services could enter the Zone, proceed to pickup or discharge cargo, and then exit the Zone.

In the second half of 2005, His Excellency Shadi Al-Majali, then ASEZA Commissioner for Customs and Revenue, oversaw the design and development of a series of processes, capacity control measures, and checkpoints at 32 key locations (principally the Zone entry/exit points, truck waiting areas, and terminals/destinations) where permits are issued and validated, and truck movements are monitored.

Work also began on the design and development of the TCS information technology, a set of Java Enterprise applications using an Oracle database management system, to organize TCS processes ranging from validation and acceptance of permit requests from trucking company dispatchers to monitoring of the physical movement of the trucks through the Zone. To reduce congestion, the system monitors capacity utilization of roads and terminals and coordinates release and diversion of trucks to and from waiting areas and terminals. Data interfaces to Ministry of Transport, National Customs, and ASEZA Customs ensure that only trucks with valid business in the Zone are issued permits. The Web-applications themselves are highly intuitive and used by dispatchers, gate operators, and ASEZA administrators, many using such a computer system for the first time.

By leveraging FDfolio™, a unique logistics data management framework developed by FreightDesk Technologies Inc., NAFITH (National Freight Information & Transportation Hub), then a United States Trade & Development Agency-funded pilot project, delivered the IT platform three months after beginning to discuss requirements with ASEZA. On November 17, 2005 NAFITH TCS was live. By late January 2006, all trucks entering the Zone were receiving permits through the system. NAFITH, now an Amman-based company, continues to provide the mission-critical IT platform including all of the servers, system software, hosting environment, and applications needed for the issuance and lifecycle management of valid TCS permits.

Dispatchers request permits to enter the Zone at one of five entry points and select an approved routing through the Zone for the specific operation. Upon receiving notification that capacity is available, trucks proceed to the entry point where the permit is issued. The truck’s movement is then monitored at critical points on the approved routes and the permit is closed when the truck exits the Zone. In addition, the system allows for the following:
  • Ability to control the number of trucks allowed into the Zone, waiting areas, terminals, and other destinations
  • Dynamic route design and selection for specific operations within the Zone
  • Verification of data for trucks, drivers, and cargo through real-time integration with external data sources
  • Efficient permit review and validation at checkpoints.

The Results Today, NAFITH TCS is used by 176 companies, owning more than 10,000 trucks, employing more than 10,000 truckers. Each day over 2,000 truck permits are issued managing over 2,500 moves. The IT system captures over 20,000 logistics events daily and maintains over 99.9% uptime. These measures indicate that TCS is Jordan’s largest e-Government system and likely the largest e-Government in the transportation sector regionally.

As an independent evaluator of the TCS during its pilot phase, Dr. Hani Mahmasani, now William A. Patterson Distinguished Chair in Transportation at Northwestern University in Chicago and editor-in-chief of Transportation Science, met with stakeholders, conducted a site visit to Aqaba and reviewed truck driver survey data. His analysis and report concluded that TCS delivered its core objectives and several collateral benefits, including directly creating over 200 new jobs, reducing truck accidents on Aqaba’s hilly roads, reducing pollution, and providing better planning data.

The majority of trucking companies and drivers agree that the TCS increases their efficiency and that of the port terminals as well. Trucking costs to and from inland points have dropped by as much as 20%. TCS has increased the efficiency and security of port infrastructure and trucking operations, while minimizing the impact of truck traffic on residential, tourist, and commercial areas of Aqaba.

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