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Posted by Kate Doyle

Using technology, smart motorways manage traffic. This is done from a regional control centre, from which each team tracks the conditions on the road and alters signs and speed limits depending on the congestion.

By reacting to traffic, the control centre can theoretically improve the flow of traffic.

They do this by temporarily or permanently opening the hard shoulder to drivers during busy periods.

This allows for a higher capacity of vehicles to be on the road, without the need to build new lanes.

Ultimately, there are three types of smart motorway:

  1. Dynamic hard shoulder running schemes. This is where the hard shoulder is opened during busy periods and closed when it isn’t needed.
  2. All lane running schemes, which means the hard shoulder is always open, except in the event of an emergency.
  3. Controlled motorways, on which the hard shoulder is always closed to traffic unless there’s an incident. The lanes that are open may have different speed limits.

What’s happening?

Across the UK, Highways England are implementing the technology on the roads to create these smart motorways.

It’s a process that is costing millions of pounds. Unfortunately, it’s also creating delays for drivers, as the teams involved in updating the motorways need to close lanes and reduce speeds while they’re roadside, at work.

What’s more, Highways England bosses have admitted that the smart motorways currently being created are running behind schedule, so even more delays are to be expected.

For the areas in the country where smart motorways have been completed, the response from drivers hasn’t been wholly positive.

A Campaign for Better Transport study has revealed that some drivers are even experiencing more delays on roads that have been converted into smart motorways than they were before.

What does this mean for fleet management?

Ultimately, it’s difficult to know whether smart motorways will make a difference to fleet management companies until they are completed. If they do work as expected, then the reduction in congestion will provide better routes for drivers, improving delivery times. The successful implementation of smart motorways could also lead to company expansion for fleet management. This is because smart motorways shouldn’t just improve the flow of traffic, they should also allow for a higher capacity of drivers to be on the roads. For fleet management companies, this means that there is the potential to increase the number of vehicles they have on the road, without worrying about them just being sat in traffic.

However, it is possible that it will take some time for the technology behind smart motorways to be running perfectly. Malfunctions with the technology could even have an adverse effect, causing unnecessary congestion. And with the smart motorways scheme only in its infancy, it’s rather likely that there will be teething problems. Despite this, technology has proved to be a successful aid to drivers, with the likes of telematics aiding in fleet management. Perhaps smart motorways will follow in the footsteps of current vehicle tracking software. Only time will tell.

The image included in this article was published under Creative Commons license 2.0

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Kate Doyle

My job is to be the customer champion. When I am not working on projects that are meaningful for our customers and our brand, I’m probably online shopping, doing yoga or nattering on the phone.