EHS Administration, Regulatory Developments

FMCSA Seeks Input on Bus, Truck Electronic IDs

On September 23, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) asked for stakeholder input on a plan to require commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) to be equipped with electronic identification (ID) technology capable of wirelessly communicating a unique ID number to the agency (87 Federal Register (FR) 58049).  

The FMCSA said it is considering regulatory amendments to improve the effectiveness of roadside inspection by enabling enforcement agencies to focus their efforts on high-risk carriers and drivers. Comments are due November 22.

The agency acknowledged that the growing number of vehicles the FMCSA must regulate—there are an estimated 12 million large trucks and buses on America’s roadways—far outpaces the agency’s enforcement resources. Ease of identification of CMVs would allow enforcement personnel to make timely and informed decisions, supporting mission-critical operations, according to the FMCSA.

The agency and its state and local partners currently use license plate readers (LPRs) and wireless data services to locate CMVs on the road. LPR systems combine the use of a
plate-reader camera with advanced optical character recognition (OCR) software to identify and match license plates with existing vehicle registration data. Readers can be mounted on stationary poles and police cruisers and are available as hand-held devices. Readers can log the time and date of each license plate scan.

Some CMVs are already equipped with electronic transponders for toll collection. However, carrier participation is voluntary, and the agency suggested that the population of trucks and buses equipped with transponders may be limited.

The agency asked for comment on several general questions, as well as questions about costs and benefits, functionality, and the population of vehicles that might be affected.

Questions include:

  • Should a device capable of transmitting an electronic ID be permanently affixed or removable/transferrable to CMVs currently in operation?
  • Would the FMCSA’s rule need to include specifications?
  • What data should be included as part of the electronic ID (carrier name, carrier contact information, vehicle ID number, license plate number, Department of Transportation (DOT) number, and gross vehicle weight rating)?
  • Should electronic ID data transmitted include driver-specific information (hours of service, commercial driver’s license compliance, and medical certification)?
  • Should ID data transmitted also include information that may vary from trip to trip, such as axle weight, pretrip inspection date and time, and GPS coordinates and time when requested?
  • Can existing technology, such as electronic logging devices (ELDs), be used to collect and transmit electronic ID data and receive a response from enforcement officials?
  • Should the FMCSA propose a standard for the method of data transmission, and, if so, what should it be, or should a voluntary standard be developed?
  • How would an electronic ID apply to leased or rented vehicles that are operated by different carriers or parties throughout the course of the year?
  • How quickly can malfunctions in any electronic ID system be located and corrected?
  • What is the population of trucks that already have a type of electronic ID technology, and what percentage of carriers are not identified through current electronic screening capabilities?
  • What is the cost of adding electronic ID technology by type (transponder, wireless, software, etc.)?
  • What are the costs for states, carriers, and drivers to add and maintain electronic ID equipment?