Pictured above: Professors Ali Hajbabaie and Leila Hajibabai, 2nd and 3rd from right, with graduate students.

It rarely snows in the lowlands of Western Washington. It does, however, snow a lot in Eastern Washington. How many snow plows should the Washington State Department of Transportation keep in each region? WSU researchers are leading efforts to help every Department of Transportation (DOT) in the country more efficiently manage their heavy equipment fleets.

Truck with a snow plow attachment on the front.
Part of the maintenance fleet used by the Alaska Department of Transportation.

Leila Hajibabai is leading the project, which is supported by a $400,000 grant from the Transportation Research Board’s National Cooperative Highway Research Program. She is collaborating with the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, ITSNode LLC, and My Fleet Department LLC.

There is no comprehensive system in place to help state DOTs manage their fleets.

“Not all the state DOTs have done this in a systematic way,” said Hajibabai.

It is extremely difficult to generate models that help fleet managers know how to most efficiently allocate their resources.

Hajibabai and her team are developing a framework to minimize the costs involved in fleet management, which encompasses everything from renting equipment to retail prices of equipment to maintenance to gas mileage.

The researchers are collecting information from participating state DOTs through a national survey. The model they create will consider historical fleet usage data as well as information like the terrain, environment, and weather. At the end of the project, they will provide a number of models to DOTs that can be fine-tuned for any location to identify the best strategy for fleet utilization management. They expect to complete the project next summer.