May 26, 2016
   Contact: Denise Donohue, CAE, APR
   Phone: 517.482.1189
   Cell: 517.896.7077

Automatic vehicle locator systems help county road agencies improve efficiency

Lansing, MI – Three Michigan county road agencies have found significant improvements in operation management and efficiency with a relatively new form of technology to local road agencies: automatic vehicle locator (AVL) systems.

AVL systems work by using trails of electronic data combined with street mapping and a computer user interface. Some are radio-based while others are cellular/digital. AVL has been used in commercial fleets since the early 2000s, but recently has been adopted by some county road commissions with favorable results.

The Antrim County Road Commission (ACRC), Newaygo County Road Commission (NCRC) and Grand Traverse County Road Commission (GTCRC) all purchased AVL systems in recent years, and are featured in the new summer issue of Crossroads, the magazine of the County Road Association of Michigan. The systems have helped with a variety of functions from management to safety to accountability.

“We bought the system so that the foreman would know where all our assets are at all times,” said Burt Thompson, PE, engineer-manager of Antrim County Road Commission. “It also helps in addressing the public’s concerns and questions during a weather event. We can tell callers when a truck is expected to come by.” 

The key point for Newaygo’s AVL system was that by seeing all their trucks at once, they realized the routes were not equitable, and they re-designed the routes.

The AVL system used by Grand Traverse updates its data every 10 seconds and can tell not only the location of trucks and location history but also provides accident report data, speed, and even air and road temperature, among other features.

Prior to investing in the AVL system, Grand Traverse County Road Commission crew members coming to their shift in the middle of a snow event often didn’t know where the last crew members left off on their route. They would end up plowing off sand and salt that the previous crew had just put down, which proved frustrating. Now, they have set up a 50-inch monitor and four computer terminals in the breakroom where the driving crew can see what has been done before them with the information from the AVL system.

“We used to spend $3.2 million a year, and we are now in the range of $2.2 to $2.4 million for our annual winter budget since we began using the AVL system,” said Grand Traverse County Road Commission manager Jim Cook. “The system has been huge from a cost perspective.”

The systems cost the road agencies between $20,000 to $68,000, some with annual or monthly fees. The data the systems provide to road agencies has been priceless, proving information is power – and efficiency.

For more information on the innovations of county road agencies in Michigan, visit

The 83 members of the County Road Association represent the unified, credible and effective voice for a safe and efficient local road system in Michigan, collectively managing more than 73 percent of all roads in the state– more than 90,000 miles and 5,700 bridges— the fourth-largest county road system in the nation.
Copyright © 2016 County Road Association of Michigan, All rights reserved.

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