A variety of technologies have transformed many aspects of trucking, from electronic logs to smart scheduling software to enhanced safety features. Not all improvements have been readily accepted and not all changes are seen as beneficial by many truckers.
A Decade of Consideration
As early as 2010 the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance petitioned the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to consider mandating unique truck ID numbers to “to help facilitate efficiency and efficacy in the roadside inspection program.” That initial petition was rejected in 2013. As justification for its action, the FMSCA noted it lacked the “information necessary to estimate the costs and benefits of an electronic identification mandate” to initiate a rulemaking effort.
The CVSA submitted a second, more comprehensive petition in 2015. The acceptance of that petition has now brought the process to issuance of an advance notice of proposed rulemaking by the FMSA as of September 23, 2022.
The specifics of the notice in the Federal Register state “FMCSA is therefore soliciting further information regarding various aspects of electronic identification including the best possible technical and operational concepts along with associated costs, benefits, security, vulnerability, privacy and other relevant deployment and operational implications.”
Efficiency or Invasion of Privacy?
The notice went on to state that comments and feedback are being solicited to evaluate the advisability of amending existing interstate commerce regulations to “…require every commercial motor vehicle operating in interstate commerce to be equipped with electronic identification technology capable of wirelessly communicating a unique ID number.”
The CVSA is a nonprofit organization comprised of local, state, provincial, territorial, and federal commercial motor vehicle safety officials and industry representatives. The group has as its primary goal collaboration between industry and government to prevent motor vehicle accidents, injuries, and fatalities.
Many acknowledge the positive contributions to truck safety that have resulted from the work of CVSA over the years. However, that support has not been unanimous and issues from ELDs to independent contractor rules have brought disagreements with some in the industry. The issue of electronic IDs is the latest topic added to those disagreements.
As a result of the announcement by FMSCA, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has alerted its membership with a call to action. The leadership of OOIDA posted recently on its Facebook page and other media a statement that, “FMCSA is considering a mandate requiring all trucks to be equipped with an electronic identification system capable of wirelessly transmitting a unique ID, as well as other information about the truck and driver, to law enforcement.”
The primary objection was focused on the issue of privacy and fears of creeping “Big Brother” regulations by FMCSA. While the proposed rulemaking states an intention of targeting high-risk carriers, the OOIDA post addresses what it calls “red flags about privacy, information security, enforcement fairness, costs to truckers, and more.”
Noting that the issue is not just about having a digital ID communicated wirelessly when queried by state or federal motor vehicle personnel. Rather, the group notes the direction taken by the FMCSA proposes “transmitting a wide range of information, like carrier name, carrier contact information, USDOT number, or possibly even information about the driver such as hours of service, Commercial Driver’s License compliance, and medical certification.”
The FMCSA also noted that current number readers already capture vehicle IDs with existing number readers at highway speeds, leading some to question this additional requirement.
Since the notice was published in the Federal Register, more than 1,300 comments have been submitted. Many of those have opposed the additional regulation. In seeking to move its members to add their voices to the conversation, the OOIDA notes how past actions such as the ELD have been poorly executed and that the government has reached much further than was originally indicated.
Comments can be submitted by anyone at Regulations.gov after searching for FMCSA-2022-0062.