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INL workers create web app to make life easier for truck drivers

Coronavirus

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A screenshot of the Commercial Routing Assistance application | Courtesy Idaho National Labratory

IDAHO FALLS — Trucking across the country during the COVID-19 pandemic has posed its challenges, but now, there’s help to navigate the roads.

The Idaho National Laboratory and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency launched a Commercial Routing Assistance tool on May 6. The free web app was designed for truck drivers in the U.S to help them get goods delivered effectively and efficiently.

RELATED: Helping local truck drivers during COVID-19 pandemic

INL researchers Ollie Gagnon, Robert Edsall, Michael Overton and Illinois-based husband and wife Tim and Mary Klett helped create the tool.

“It happened so fast, but we all knew that we had to get something out there soon to help the people that are out there (delivering),” program manager Tim Klett said.

During the pandemic, state-level restrictions have been put in place. Drivers have faced obstacles such as closed rest areas, local curfews and in some cases, 14-day quarantines, the INL said.

They also explained that some states have instituted waivers for truck drivers, but others require them to obtain special permits or show proof of medical clearance in order to pass beyond their borders.

“This is a unique opportunity for me personally because my grandfather owned a trucking business,” Tim said. “One of my uncles actually just retired as a trucker locally here, so I do understand where they come from and seeing all of the different restrictions that are put in place across the different states, I know what they’re going through.”

A screenshot of the Commercial Routing Assistance application showing different routes a truck driver can take to get to Florida from Idaho. | Courtesy Idaho National Labratory

Tim said the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency reached out to INL for help developing the tool. Within a few days, they had a prototype of the application available.

“Each of the 50 states is kind of doing their own thing. They’re creating executive orders and they’re posting them on their website,” Tim said. “But there’s not really a centralized repository where somebody can go and say, ‘Okay, I’m going to be going cross country, what am I going to run into?'”

The tool has four modules, including a national mapping feature, a state-by-state restrictions guide, a spreadsheet and summary capability.

Users can learn helpful information such as if there are state driver’s licensing agency or rest stop closures, CDL expiration extensions or an increased size in cargo weight limits.

“There are two different types of data that you can view in here,” software developer Mary Klett said. “When you go to the state information (tab), you can select to see both your trucking information and your government actions. … Government actions are things like school closures and elections being delayed … the face-covering requirement … it is applicable to truck drivers.”

INL employees Tim and Mary Klett who work remotely from Illinois helped create the Commercial Routing Assistance tool. | Courtesy Klett family

The app was designed during COVID-19, but the couple said it was developed in a way that can be a resource for its users anytime there are restrictions across states.

“It was an amazing thing to be a part of, and it’s exciting to see that it’s finally getting used and hopefully making a difference,” Mary said.

The website is mobile-friendly for both Androids and iPhones. All you need is internet connectivity.

“We tried to put ourselves behind the wheel, so to speak and factor in a day in their lives,” Tim said. “Whether you’re a dispatcher sitting in an office somewhere and you know you’re going to be working on your computer, or you’re the truck driver at a rest stop trying to figure out the path of least resistance … in terms of everything that they’re dealing with with the pandemic, we tried to incorporate that into the capability that we put in place.”

Click here to use the tool.

A screenshot of the Commercial Routing Assistance application showing information that can be helpful for truck drivers. | Courtesy Idaho National Labratory
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