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Fixing roads with a mobile solution integrated into milk trucks

'We want traffic to run smoothly and safely regardless of the weather, even on smaller roads.'

Christian Sundell

Head of Intelligent Traffic Solutions

The Finnish Transport Agency (FTA), the Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY) for North Savo, Valio and Tieto have together organised a pilot to test the use of a milk truck information system to survey roads. Since milk must be collected from farms at least every other day, Valio has nearly 100 milk trucks on the road every day of the year. Each one of these trucks racks up 275,000 kilometres per year.

For milk collection to run smoothly, every day, in all kinds of weather, the roads must be in good shape. Frost damage, potholes, slippery sections, water on the road and fallen trees – are all hindrances that can delay a milk truck on its route. For this reason, it is a natural fit for milk truck drivers to observe the road, assess repair needs and report the nature and exact location of the damage to the appropriate parties.

'This is essential for milk collection but it's also beneficial to residents of rural areas, school and postal transport, and the forest industry. Thanks to our drivers and the mobile solution developed for milk trucks, any road damage can be immediately reported to the right body and repaired,' stated Petteri Tahvanainen, Development Manager at Valio.

'During the first pilot, held over a couple of months, we received 20 reports on road condition, each of which was accurate and led to repairs. The contractors were very happy with the quality of the reports. For example, they were able to drain water that was flooding a road before the situation escalated to a point where substantial repairs would have been required,' explained Otto Kärki, Expert of Maintenance and Digitalisation at the FTA.

The mobile capabilities of milk trucks benefit everyone

Valio's milk trucks made the transition to the mobile era in 2014 with the KAMU information collection system developed for milk trucks by Tieto. Among other things, the solution monitors milk quality and ensures that all parties involved – from the milk farmers to the milk truck drivers and Valio – have access to the same real-time information throughout the process. However, Valio found that the system had potential to further logistical developments and offered it to the FTA.

The integrations between the milk trucks and the FTA’s systems were built by Tieto. The user-friendly mobile solution allows drivers to concentrate on their work and report any possible observations they make along the way with ease. In the future, the development of sensor technology, analysis and automation will further facilitate the efforts of drivers and the FTA.

'This pilot is an excellent example of flexible cooperation between private companies and various authorities in the context of smart traffic. Thanks to our expertise, we can bring together traffic actors and develop an ecosystem of intelligent services for a variety of bodies in society,' stated Juha Levo, Customer Executive for the Traffic Sector at Tieto.

Continuous observation to cover the entirety of Finland

The FTA determines the quality requirements for road maintenance and the ELY Centres monitor contractor operations and conduct random quality checks. The contractors are required to maintain constant awareness of road conditions, but this is not always possible in practice. With the help of milk trucks, which are always on the road anyway, the goal is to achieve a new level of real-time quality monitoring throughout the day and allow problems to be anticipated and addressed swiftly.

'Users of the lower road network have been dissatisfied with road conditions for a long time now. This is a step in the right direction, which has created a positive spirit in the field. It's been a joy to see the genuine interest and enthusiasm for development among all parties involved,' Kärki stated.

The first pilot organised in North Savo was successful, and the second pilot has been launched. Photos are added to the road condition reports so that the FTA's Road Traffic Centre can prioritise tasks and send messages to contractors on required measures.

'Once the system has been developed far enough to require only minor system integrations instead of major changes, we can start exploring the opportunities for expanding the system to cover the entire country,' Kärki envisioned.

Customer

The Finnish Transport Agency is responsible for Finnish roads, railways and waterways, and for the development of the traffic system. The ELY Centres (Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment) are responsible for road maintenance and commission maintenance services from contractors. Valio is the largest milk processor in Finland and transports over 1.9 billion litres of milk each year.

Challenge

The Finnish roads must be in good condition to allow Valio to carry out its daily milk transport runs. The FTA receives damage reports for busy roads but monitoring the condition of the lower road network is more challenging due to a lack of resources.

Solution

Valio's milk truck drivers observe the road quality, assess repair needs and report them through the KAMU information system developed by Tieto.

Benefit

Real-time monitoring of road quality, anticipation and swift addressing of problems where necessary. More satisfied road users in rural areas. Professional drivers can work without interruption, thereby securing Valio's business operations and assisting the FTA in collecting the information necessary for maintaining the road network.

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