FAST ACT: Congress seeks to update Wireless Roadside Inspection pilot program

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line associate editor | 1/12/2016

A provision in the new highway bill mandates that the nation’s top safety enforcement agency issue a report to Congress within six months to clarify among other things how its proposed wireless roadside inspection system will differ from existing state systems, and how they will protect truckers’ private data.

Section 5513 of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act directs the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to submit to the congressional committees on transportation a report regarding the design, development, testing and implementation of wireless roadside inspection systems. The report is required to include a determination as to whether federal wireless roadside inspection systems “conflict with existing electronic screening systems, or create capabilities already available; require additional statutory authority to incorporate generated inspection data into the safety measurement system or the safety fitness determinations program; and provide appropriate restrictions to specifically address privacy concerns of affected motor carriers and operators.”

At least 40 states already have state and/or private systems in place, according to Jay Grimes, OOIDA’s federal affairs manager. Grimes said that in Montana alone, which has had its own wireless roadside inspections since 1998, the non-federal system saved motor carriers 340,000 hours of commercial driver time, more than 1.6 million gallons of fuel, and more than 3,500 tons of emissions.

“This provision requires FMCSA to clarify how it is not a duplicative system and how they will safeguard another federal database of private driver and business data,” Grimes said.

A spokesperson for the FMCSA meanwhile says the agency’s own WRI research project is in Phase III, which will include system testing on “multiple vehicles from multiple fleets within a multi-state corridor.”

The agency’s yearlong data collection effort is scheduled to begin in March. The agency spokesperson said FMCSA’s final report is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2017, and the recent statutory language included in the FAST Act doesn’t accelerate that timing.

FMCSA’s plans call for equipping approximately 50 vehicles with fleet management devices from Innovative Software Engineering (ISE), a provider of these systems. The devices use cellular communications to allow carrier subscribers to monitor drivers’ hours-of-service status. The agency says that during the first two years of this phase, ISE worked with the WRI team to modify these devices to operate within the WRI test framework.

Once equipped, the agency will monitor the test vehicles in service from January through March to assure that the system is functioning properly. If successful, the full data collection will begin on approximately 600 vehicles for one year. Inspection sites will be located in Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi and North Carolina. Regarding the participating carriers, ISE is in the process of finalizing agreements with a number of carriers that currently subscribe to its system.

For its WRI project, the FMCSA says it is focusing on hours-of-service data. However, the system is designed to process information that the data network in the truck can send from monitoring systems, including tire pressure, brake monitoring, weight, lighting status, and even seatbelt status.

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