January 27 - In the UK, the latest version of ESDAL (Electronic Service Delivery for Abnormal Loads), the Highways Agency website for hauliers notifying abnormal load movements to Structure Owning Authorities, has gone live after lengthy delays.

The Highways Agency says that ESDAL is a free service for road users transporting abnormal loads and the new version uses up-to-date technology and improvements, including modern mapping and a more user-friendly interface, to more effectively log abnormal loads. 

The system allows the Highways Agency and partners, such as the police, to provide guidance on the best way to transport the load while balancing the needs of other road users.

A Highways Agency spokesperson said: "The Highways Agency is committed to ensuring road users that need to transport abnormal loads are able to do so in a safe and timely way with support from ourselves and partners such as regional police forces.

"We have been working with partners and hauliers to develop a new version of our web-based portal (ESDAL) which is used to assist hauliers with route planning and automatically notifies relevant authorities who may need to offer advice to hauliers."

The Highways Agency awarded a contract to develop a new version of ESDAL in September 2013 with ambitious delivery milestones. The current ESDAL system has remained operational until the new version was ready to be used by hauliers and partners.

The system has been developed by Costain, and its partner ARS T&TT, for the Highways Agency and can be used for journeys in England, Scotland and Wales. ARS T&TT has delivered the Dutch equivalent system to ESDAL; the system is called CROS.

There has been some criticism of the time taken to implement the new system and John Waterfall, chairman of Cascade Software has stated that the launch of ESDAL2 may leave customers of Cascade's AbLoads® software out in the cold.

Only a week ago, Waterfall indicated that despite Cascade's best efforts to work with Costain during the 14 month development of ESDAL2, it had received sample XML data files from Costain which were deficient and needed correcting and extending. Cascade said these files are vital for the automated data entry into Cascade's AbLoads® software.

Waterfall claimed that from the launch date of ESDAL2 many Highways Agency Area Contractors, appointed by the Highways Agency to manage abnormal loads travelling across the national motorway and trunk road system, will take a large backwards step in the time they take to process an abnormal load notification. 

He added that with a statutory two or five working day turnaround time to respond to a notification this will put greater pressure on operating staff and will lead to an increase in processing costs.

AbLoads®, the specialised abnormal loads software developed by Cascade Software, has been in use by Structure Owning Authorities for 20 years managing the abnormal load notification process. Cascade claims that currently AbLoads® processes about 60 percent of the UK's abnormal load notifications across the Highways Agency national road network. 

With some Highways Agency Areas receiving in excess of 300 notifications daily, and with a set time period to respond back to hauliers, speed and automation of the entire process is vital. Currently notifications submitted via the existing ESDAL method take less than a minute to process, check and respond to. 

Waterfall believes that it is likely the time taken via ESDAL2 could increase by up to 300 percent per notification.

HLPFI understands that ESDAL notifications do not form the largest group of notifications submitted to Structure Owning Authorities, and notifications submitted using Cascade's AbHaulier®, the sister software to AbLoads®, can still be processed swiftly.