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 commercial vehicle regulations, carriers may need to install devices that can transmit information on the condition and identity of the truck and driver to roadside enforcement.

How motor carriers will transmit driver and truck data remains unclear, but could explain the recent Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) request for comments on Universal Identification, known as UID. In that request, FMCSA sought input on how to broadcast sensitive information, how much it will cost, and what information will be required.

In a recent webinar titled, “Preparing for the Arrival of Electronic Truck Inspections,” PrePass presented pertinent questions to answer before UID rules possibly take effect.

What is UID?

UID, otherwise known as Electronic Identification or Unique Electronic Identification, 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 Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (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 based on a single point of data must:

  • Identify the vehicle for compliance, inspection, or enforcement purposes;
  • Not transmit personally identifiable information (PII) regarding operators; 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 CVSA Standard Level VIII Electronic Inspection.

Blurred Lines Between Level VIII and UID

The concern industry-wide is that the UID ANPRM blurs the lines between UID and Level VIII inspections. Under the proposed rules, UID information would include:

  • Driver personally identifiable information
  • Hours of service
  • CDL compliance
  • Medical certification
  • Truck information, including pre-trip inspection date and time; GPS location date and time; axle weight, gross vehicle weight rating; and more

The UID ARPRM went far beyond the single point of data that stakeholders proposed. It begs the question: Is UID an identifier that will be part of a CVSA Level VIII inspection? A Level VIII Electronic Inspection requires 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
  • Commercial vehicle license status
  • Medical examiners certificate and the skill performance evaluation certificate
  • Current driver’s record of duty status
  • Hours of service compliance
  • Unified Carrier Registration
  • Federal out-of-service orders

Questions to Answer Before Possible UID Implementation

PrePass Safety Alliance developed an extensive list of questions on UID that state enforcement agencies and the trucking industry should seek answers to before the concept moves forward. The questions to answer include:

  • How will UID improve highway safety?
  • How would carrier and driver data be transmitted and received?
  • How would data transmission and data storage be protected?
  • How would data be used after carriers provide it to federal and state entities? Clear definitions and boundaries of how this data will be used are needed.
  • How will a new mandate on carrier and driver data impact the trucking industry? Requiring drivers to submit and broadcast PII data as they drive down the road could impact driver recruitment and retention. One survey shows 27% of respondents 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 a.m. 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? That’s a real concern.
  • What will motor carriers receive for providing additional data?

The UID ANPRM put forth specific considerations that must be addressed, which brings up five key concerns.

Data Use. What data should be included as part of the electronic ID? If UID is really focused on truck identification, then a VIN should be all that’s needed. But building out a new system and technology to transmit the VIN would be prohibitively 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 supply chain. Many in the trucking industry indicated they would leave the industry if required to transmit the data included in the UID ANPRM. Any UID system designed to identify trucks would not require drivers to broadcast their PII, but UID as part of Level VIII inspections would. The two have become conflated. In addition, once the government has all of the truck and driver data, including GPS location with a timestamp, it is not prohibited from using that information elsewhere. Once state or federal governments have the ability to track trucks using GPS, can a vehicle miles traveled tax system be far behind?

Data Transmission. To gather the data suggested in the UID ANPRM, FMSCA would need to develop sophisticated technology that is interoperable 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. But carriers that could not afford new equipment would be required to pull into weigh stations.

Data Protection. Companies struggle now to secure onsite computer systems. The idea of securing information transmitted from a truck to roadside enforcement adds another layer of 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 truck moving at highway speeds. Transmitting driver PII also creates a significant privacy risk because once bad actors 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 motor carriers that voluntarily provide that information. In return, those carriers save time, fuel, and money because they bypass weigh stations. This motivates them to improve their safety scores to bypass more weigh stations. UID offers no such exchange 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. The costs are already known for preclearance programs, such as those offered by PrePass. These programs are inexpensive to motor carriers and already identify trucks as they drive down the road. A motor carrier can save up to $8.68 every time it bypasses a weigh station, according to FMSCA data. 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 these new systems.

Ultimately all groups involved in the UID/Level VIII discussion have the same goal – to improve highway safety. The question that remains unanswered is whether developing a costly new system to identify and gather information about drivers and trucks is the best way to achieve it.

The PrePass blog and podcasts are published as a public service of PrePass®, the most reliable and technologically advanced weigh station bypass and integrated electronic trucking toll payment platform in North America. PrePass also includes INFORM™ Safety and INFORM™ Tolling software for improving truck safety scores and lowering toll costs.