How Canadian Ports Are Utilizing Technology to Limit Congestion


Managing the flow of traffic in Montreal and Vancouver, two of Canada’s largest ports, is quite the challenge for everyone involved, especially the truck drivers carrying cargo to the Canadian ports. Such frustrations in getting cargo to these ports in a timely fashion are caused by congestion, delays, detours, and stoppages on port routes. Part of the reason why congestion has increased in North American cities is because many ports that used to be isolated are now located in congested urban areas. Making matters worse is that most ports share surface streets and highway space with their host cities. Only a handful of port cities in North America, Prince Rupert and Seattle among them, have their own road networks.

Collaboration between Canadian Cargo Companies and Ports

As a result of this continued issue, Canadian cargo companies and ports have collaborated by using technological tools that can share reliable and timely updates on current traffic conditions. By using these modern technologies, trucking companies and ports are seeking to function in busy and sensitive communities. The objective in implementing electronic technologies to help trucking companies is, ultimately, to have drivers make the most informed decisions while on the road. With the use of these new technologies, drivers will be able to consider when and why to go to which Canadian port terminal, what route to use in each direction, how to combine trip legs in the most efficient multi-stop trip, and how much time to allow for such trips. Communication technologies present proven solutions to improve truck efficiency and to diminish the negative effects of congestion, traffic, and construction on the economics of shipping. In addition to stimulating the trucking business, Canadian ports like Montreal are motivated by helping to cut down on greenhouse gases by reducing congestion and the idling of trucks.

In utilizing technologies such as GPS, radio-frequency identification readers, and license plate readers, Canadian trucking companies and ports hope to collaboratively measure and report truck travel time and processing times. These technologies will also help to produce and communicate current travel times and wait times, which in turn will help drivers to make more informative decisions about their own travel routes. The Canadian Port of Montreal also plans on facilitating this agenda through the use of text messages and a mobile app that would frequently update traffic conditions. The port is also exploring the expansion of data collection by using Bluetooth sensors and webcam systems. These Bluetooth detectors could track the progress of smartphones in the cab of a truck as it moves through port roads and through the exit gate. Ports with this technology, such as Montreal, will then be able to implement time saving measures. This would build upon the license plate recognition system that is already in place throughout much of Canada. The port of Vancouver is already ahead of the technology curve; it uses an online dashboard that incorporates an array of technologies such as Twitter, e-mail, and a sign board on site. Vancouver’s port has depended heavily on its GPS technology, mandating GPS units on trucks, which enables drivers to communicate traffic and terminal condition info. Hopefully the Canadian ports of Vancouver and Montreal will be a technological model for other North American ports to imitate, as they try to develop more effective techniques for the shipping industry.