Commercial vehicle enforcement agencies are launching a push for thorough pre-trip and wireless roadside inspections, ushering in a new era for truck inspections. To comply with these new regulations, carriers may need to install devices that transmit information on the condition and identity of the truck and driver to roadside enforcement. How carriers will transmit this data is unclear but could explain a recent FMCSA request for comments on Universal Identification, known as UID. In that request, the FMCSA sought input on how to broadcast sensitive information, how much it will cost, and what information will be required.
Electronic Identification or Unique Electronic Identification (UID) comprises the quick transmission and recognition of a truck as it moves down the highway. Roadside enforcement uses this electronically transmitted information to make screening and inspection decisions. The concept has been tossed around since 2010 when the CVSA first petitioned the FMSCA for a rulemaking on UID. In 2013, FMSCA denied CVSA’s request, but in 2015, FMSCA reversed its decision and said it would consider UID.
In September 2021, the trek toward UID became more formal when it was introduced in the Infrastructure, Investment, and Jobs Act (IIAJ). FMSCA then issued an Advance Notice Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) for UIDs. A large group of stakeholders, including CVSA, truck manufacturers, trucking associations, and others provided input on the idea. Those parties agreed that any universal electronic vehicle identifier should be limited to a single point of data, such as the vehicle identification number. They made clear that UID must identify the vehicle for compliance, inspection, or enforcement, not transmit personal information about the driver, and not create an undue cost burden for operators and carriers.
However, these requirements did not make it into the final IIAJ legislation, leaving UID interpretation up for grabs. Now it seems some want it to go beyond UID and make it part of a CVSA Standard Level VIII Electronic Inspection. The concern is that the lines between UID and Level VIII inspections will be blurred. Under the proposed rules, UID information would include driver personally identifiable information, hours of service, CDL compliance, medical certification, and truck information, including pre-trip inspection date and time, GPS location date and time, axle weight, gross vehicle weight rating, and more.
The UID ANPRM went far beyond the single point of data that stakeholders proposed. Will UID become an identifier that will be part of a CVSA Level VIII inspection? These inspections require trucks to submit more data sets, including things like a descriptive location, including GPS coordinates with date and timestamp, electronic validation of who is operating the vehicle, driver’s license and class endorsements for vehicle being operated, and commercial vehicle license status. It also includes medical examiners certificate and the skill performance evaluation, current driver’s record of duty status, hours of service compliance, Unified Carrier Registration, and federal out-of-service orders.
There is an extensive list of questions on UID that need to be answered such as, how will UID improve highway safety? How would carrier and driver data be transmitted? How would data transmission and data storage be protected? How would data be used after carriers provide it to federal and state entities? Clear answers to these questions are needed before moving forward.
Forcing drivers to submit and broadcast PII data as they drive could impact driver recruitment and retention. One survey shows 27% of drivers would leave the industry if the proposed UID rules became law. Will states be held liable unless every truck violation is detained? What happens if a truck drives past a weigh station at 2:00 AM and transmits info that points to an out-of-service or hours of service violation? If the state doesn’t pull the truck over, and it gets in a wreck, would it be liable? The UID ANPRM put forth specific topics that must be addressed, which brings up five concerns.
Data Use. What data should be included in the electronic ID? If UID is really focused on truck identification, then a VIN should be all that’s needed. But building a new system to transmit the VIN would be expensive to develop and install and states would bear the burden to maintain and update the system. Broadening the scope to include driver data would take a disastrous toll on the industry.
Data Transmission. To gather the data suggested in the UID ANPRM, FMSCA would need to develop sophisticated technology that is inter-operable with all tractors and trailers and backward compatible with the oldest equipment in use. Unless all carriers participate in a UID system, the ruling would create inequity in the trucking industry. Carriers that can afford new trucks with a UID device would benefit, and carriers that can’t, would not.
Data Protection. Companies struggle now to secure on-site computer systems. The idea of securing information transmitted from a truck to roadside enforcement adds a lot more complexity to data security. The sensitive nature of UID data would likely require sophisticated encryption systems that are difficult to deploy and execute on a moving truck. Transmitting driver PII also creates a privacy risk because once the bad guys know trucks broadcast that information, they will develop systems to intercept it.
Safety Benefits. Identifying a truck offers little to no direct safety benefits. In fact, UID would increase the number of trucks entering weigh stations, which would heighten crash risks as more trucks enter and exit the highway. Plus, preclearance programs already identify and match truck data for carriers that voluntarily provide that information. In return, those carriers save time, fuel, and money because they bypass scales. This motivates them to improve their safety scores. UID offers no such benefit.
Cost Concerns. What is the cost of electronic ID equipment for states, carriers, and drivers? No one knows how UID will be executed, so there is no way to calculate costs. In addition, states would bear the cost to build, maintain, and upgrade a new UID system, when a similar system already exists (the PrePass Safety Alliance has invested over $900 million to build and maintain the world’s largest connected vehicle infrastructure).
The trucking industry and state enforcement agencies have a vital interest in the UID and Level VIII inspection concepts. They should remain engaged with FMSCA and other stakeholders to address their concerns before deploying new systems. Ultimately, all groups involved in the discussion have the same goal – to improve highway safety. But the question remains, is developing a costly new system to identify and gather information about drivers and trucks the best way to achieve it?