Dept. of Design and Construction New York, NY

Provides design and construction services for streets and highways, schools and libraries, sewer systems, and other public structures.


The routine nature of the tasks carried out by New York City's Dept. of Design and Construction (DDC) came to an abrupt halt on Sept. 11, 2001. After being hit by two hijacked jumbo jets, the World Trade Center's twin towers collapsed into a pile of steel and pulverized concrete weighing in excess of 1.2 million tons.

With guidance from FEMA and others, DDC tried to bring order to the debris removal process. Hundreds of drivers and construction equipment at the site created traffic jams that rendered much of the equipment idle.

DDC had to find a way to monitor the activities of all the trucks involved. Any system used for that purpose had to be installed on a variety of vehicles at a reasonable cost and with minimal downtime. Three weeks after Sept. 11, DDC put out a “request for proposal” to see if such a system existed.


PowerLOC Technologies, located in Richmond Hill, Ont., Canada, and its U.S. partner, IDC Criticom International, were awarded the contract. By Thanksgiving, the company had over 225 satellite tracking units installed on the trucks working at the WTC site, with status updates available in real-time via an Internet connection to DDC.

Yoram Shalmon, director of product management for PowerLOC, says the heart of the system is a small black box installed under the passenger seat of every truck working at the site. The steel box, which takes only 20 minutes to install, contains a GPS receiver to determine the location of each truck. A transmitter placed on the passenger side-view mirror of the vehicle sends that information to a computer control center near the Manhattan site.

DDC was initially concerned about the feasibility of transmitting wireless signals through New York City's urban canyons, says Shalmon, but the wide ground field antenna used to transmit the signals eliminated that problem.

“We built a number of ‘alarms’ into the system,” explains Shalmon. “If the tracking unit or truck trailer was disconnected, if a vehicle was late to the arrival site, went to the wrong dump site, or left pre-set routes, the system would alert DDC.”

The system also enabled DDC to gauge the productivity of the trucks working at the site, increasing the number of loads hauled per shift from four to ten. And when DDC noticed there were too many trucks waiting for loads, it reduced the number of vehicles by 40%.

Shalmon said rerouting around delays became a key aspect of this system. When 15 trucks were found waiting at a dock for barges, DDC directed them to another dock location.

The productivity controls provided by PowerLoc enabled DDC to lower the expected cost of removing debris from over a billion dollars to $600 million.

The PowerLOC system was also used to prevent vandalism at the site, says DDC spokesman John Spavins.