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FMCSA contemplating electronic vehicle identification tags

Updated: Sep 26, 2022


Among its flurry of recently-published notices, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has announced it is seeking comments on whether the agency should amend its regulations to require "every commercial motor vehicle (CMV) operating in interstate commerce to be equipped with electronic identification (ID) technology capable of wirelessly communicating a unique ID number when queried by a Federal or State motor carrier safety enforcement personnel." The agency's notice is a response to a petition filed by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) asking for such technology to help improve the efficiency and effectiveness of roadside inspections.


As a result of "consistent growth in the CMV industry, the number of vehicles to regulate far outpaces enforcement resources," according to the notice. "Ease of identification of CMVs allows enforcement personnel to make timely and informed decisions to support their mission critical operations."



FMCSA's regulations do not currently require CMVs be equipped with any means of electronically identifying the vehicles. However, many carriers voluntarily equip their trucks with this type of technology in order to participate in weigh station bypass programs. To this point, the agency explains, "FMCSA provides grant funding to States for technology projects that electronically identify a CMV, verify its size, weight, and credentials information, and review its carrier’s past safety performance while the vehicle is in motion and then communicate safely to the driver to either pull in or bypass the roadside inspection station."


According to the notice, the technologies in use for identifying CMVs come in a couple of varieties, namely license plate readers (LPRs) and wireless mobile data services. "LPR systems combine the use of a specialized plate-reader camera with advanced optical character recognition (OCR) software that can identify and match license plates with existing registration data...State CMV enforcement officers use LPR systems in conjunction with FMCSA’s Safety and Fitness Electronic Records System to further identify the motor carrier responsible for safety."


On the other hand, transponders are devices that act "as both a transmitter and responder and are used to wirelessly receive and transmit data to automatically identify and track the object (vehicle) to which the transponder is affixed. The transponder is then associated with an account holder for identification purposes. These devices are often utilized for toll collections."


The FMCSA notes that it is currently undertaking an operational test of Level VIII electronic inspections, and that data gleaned from this test will inform this rulemaking. "The electronic inspections being examined as part of the operational test effort would enable FMCSA to assess on-the-road safety compliance while a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) is still in motion, minimizing disruption to the motor carrier and therefore, supply chain, and doing so in a way that significantly reduces large trucks and bus emissions across the Nation."


Questions

In its notice, FMCSA asks the public to weigh in on the following questions:


General

  1. Should a device capable of transmitting an electronic ID be permanently affixed or removable/transferrable to CMVs currently in operation? Would FMCSA’s rule need to specify?

  2. What data should be included as part of the electronic ID (e.g., carrier name, carrier contact information, vehicle ID number, license plate number, USDOT number, and gross vehicle weight rating)?

    1. Should the information be limited to non-PII information? If not, why not?

    2. Should it include information specific to the driver (e.g., hours of service, Commercial Driver’s License compliance, and medical certification)?

    3. Should it also include information that may vary from trip to trip (e.g., axle weight, pre-trip inspection date and time, and GPS coordinates and time when requested)?

    4. Depending on how you answer the above questions, should the electronic ID be transferrable in the event of a CMV sale?

    5. Depending on how you answer the above questions, who should be responsible for providing the data set (see question 1.b.) associated with the electronic ID for a CMV (i.e., driver, carrier, third party)?

  3. Depending on the scope of the data you believe is necessary in 1.b., how should the data be transmitted and received?

    1. Can existing technology (e.g., ELDs) be used to collect and transmit the electronic ID data and receive a response from enforcement officials?

    2. How far in advance (time, distance) does a state need to gather the electronic ID information to positively ID a vehicle and message the vehicle whether further inspection is required?

    3. Should FMCSA propose a standard for the method of data transmission,and, if so, what should it be, or do you believe a voluntary standard can be developed?

  4. Are there reports or studies not already referenced above available regarding the use of electronic devices to identify CMVs that FMCSA may find useful in finding a technically sound, cost-effective, long-term means to identify CMVs at roadside? If so, please provide the references in your responses.

  5. Should the electronic ID be limited only to CMV power units (e.g., motorcoaches, truck-tractors) or also include trailers?

  6. How would an electronic ID apply to rented or leased vehicles that are operated by different carriers or parties throughout the course of the year?

  7. How would or should an electronic ID be tied to States’ CMV record keeping (e.g., International Registration Plan registration, Performance and Registration Information Systems Management (PRISM))?

  8. Are there privacy, health, or coercion concerns FMCSA should consider in a future proposal?

Functionality

  1. Should the electronic ID framework be flexible so that functionality could be added later, as new safety and other vehicle technologies emerge?

  2. What operational and/or technical processes should be in place for handling situations where messages or data concerning the electronic ID do not send or receive correctly?

  3. How quickly can malfunctions in any electronic ID system be located and corrected?

  4. What cybersecurity issues (e.g., “spoofing,” and interference) should FMCSA consider in a future electronic ID proposal? Compare and contrast such concerns with the current electronic ID systems.

  5. How could tampering be prevented if some or all data entry or transfer is performed manually?

Populations Affected

  1. What is the population of trucks that already have a type of electronic ID technology (e.g., PrePass, Drivewyze)?

  2. What is the percentage of carriers that are not identified through current electronic screening capabilities? Please provide any supporting studies or reports.

Costs/Benefits

  1. What are the current and potential future safety benefits of electronic IDs?

    1. Are there studies or reports that provide data to support the benefits of electronic IDs?

    2. Would implementing an electronic ID requirement lower crash rates, if so, how?

  2. How would requiring an electronic ID impact the overall effectiveness of State CMV inspection programs?

  3. How much time would compliant motor carriers save if an electronic ID were to be required?

  4. What is the cost of adding electronic ID technology by type (e.g., transponder, wireless, software, etc.)?

  5. What is the cost of electronic ID equipment for States, carriers, and drivers?

  6. What is the cost of maintaining/operating electronic ID equipment (e.g., internet connection, inspection, repair, third party contracting fees, etc.)?

  7. What is the additional administrative burden (time and costs not already associated with vehicle or carrier registration) for registering the electronic ID and updating the registration as necessary to ensure that it is associated with the current motor carrier responsible for safety?

Other

  1. Is there any other information associated with electronic IDs that FMCSA should consider? Please describe.

Conclusion

Comments to this rulemaking should be submitted in Docket No. FMCSA-2022-0062. If you have any questions or need help drafting comments, please contact us.


About Trucksafe Consulting, LLC: Trucksafe Consulting is a full-service DOT regulatory compliance consulting and training service. We help carriers develop, implement, and improve their safety programs, through personalized services, industry-leading training, and a library of educational content. Trucksafe also hosts a monthly live show on its various social media channels called Trucksafe LIVE! to discuss hot-button issues impacting highway transportation. Trucksafe is owned and operated by Brandon Wiseman and Jerad Childress, transportation attorneys who have assisted some of the nation’s leading fleets to develop and maintain cutting-edge safety programs. You can learn more about Trucksafe online at www.trucksafe.com and by following Trucksafe on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

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