Watching the weather with software

It's long been known that weather can play havoc with transportation operations: Rain can flood roads and snow can make whole stretches of highways impassable. Now there is a way to track weather in real-time and tie that information back into dispatch, using nothing more than a software package and personal computer. Minneapolis-based Meteorlogix, which bills itself as one of the world's largest

It's long been known that weather can play havoc with transportation operations: Rain can flood roads and snow can make whole stretches of highways impassable. Now there is a way to track weather in real-time and tie that information back into dispatch, using nothing more than a software package and personal computer.

Minneapolis-based Meteorlogix, which bills itself as one of the world's largest commercial weather companies, has developed a system called MX Vision to help a variety of transportation companies route their operations around severe weather events. Union Pacific, US Airways and LTL giant Yellow Freight System are just some of the 22,000 clients that use versions of Meteorlogix's system to reduce the impact weather has on their operations, said Ron Sznaider, the company's vp of product marketing.

"For a trucking company, being able to route vehicles around severe weather allows for better management of the business," he told Fleet Owner. "First, there's the safety issue of avoiding heavy rain, hail and gusty winds. Also, routing around severe weather can make the fleet more efficient, which helps the bottom line."

The key, said Sznaider, is to connect real-time weather information to dispatchers so they can make better routing decisions.

Meteorlogix's MX Vision provides a continuous stream of weather data via satellite to one of more PCs in a fleet's dispatch center. The software on the PC then displays that weather data on maps much like the local TV news station. In MX Vision's case, however, the weather patterns are overlaid on custom-designed maps showing specific routes, roads, terminal locations, and any other custom information of importance to the fleet, said Sznaider.

"You don't have to be a weatherman to use this system," he explained. "They plot the progression of storms, showing in detail, for example, where rain, hail and possible tornadoes might develop within a thunderstorm. The system can also give a forecast as to where a storm should be 30 minutes from now, so dispatchers can be more proactive." Weather information is updated every five minutes, he added.

Sznaider said accident prevention is the clearest savings benefit from having weather tracking capability. Beyond that, there are potential savings to be found by increasing the efficiency of the fleet, mainly by not being stuck in traffic delays or having to slow down in severe weather.

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