Trucking groups raise concerns about mandatory electronic identifiers

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The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) is drawing comparisons to none other than Big Brother as U.S. regulators study a proposal to require unique electronic identifiers on commercial vehicles.

“To ask for more surveillance and control in the name of safety on our highways is to venture into what George Orwell would call ‘doublespeak’. The term ‘Big Brother’ has come to signify government control of an intrusion into truckers’ individual lives,” president and CEO Todd Spencer wrote this week in a submission to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

It was among more than 1,750 submissions about the proposed rule.

electronic fingerprint
(Illustration: istock)

Focusing on high-risk carriers

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) has argued that electronic identifiers would help roadside enforcement teams focus on high-risk carriers. Its 2010 petition for such a mandate was denied when FMCSA said it lacked information on the costs and benefits of electronic IDs, but the process was revived in 2015.

Scale bypass programs such as PrePass and Drivewyze already incorporate electronic IDs, but such programs are currently voluntary. A 2020 report to U.S. Congress determined transponder- and app-based e-screening programs capture about 13% of interstate carriers.

Referring to the concept as an “unwarranted intrusion” into privacy, as well as a cost burden that fails to improve efficiency or safety, OOIDA argues that mandatory identifiers would only make things more convenient for enforcement agencies.

“This proposal would negatively affect highway safety if enforcement officers begin prioritizing roadside inspections based on potentially unreliable data, instead of observable safety hazards,” Spencer added in the letter.

“Merely because an industry qualifies as ‘pervasively regulated’ does not mean that industry participants lose all constitutional privacy protections.”

TCA and ATA

The Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) — while choosing not to oppose or endorse the plan — raised questions about cybersecurity, data ownership, inspection policies and cost, while also expressing worries that the trucks allowed to bypass scales would not count as a true inspection.

In its submission, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) said devices that transmit a unique ID could have safety benefits, but raised administrative challenges associated with attaching a VIN to a USDOT number.

“FMCSA should require clear safety benefits before imposing administrative burdens on fleets,” the ATA said in a letter signed by Dan Horvath, vice-president – safety policy, and Kevin Grove, director – safety and technology policy.

“If enforcement has the bandwidth and resources to implement effective use of the unique ID, safety would be improved by better identification and removal of trucks that are not in compliance with regulations.”

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John G. Smith is the editorial director of Newcom Media's trucking and supply chain publications -- including Today's Trucking, trucknews.com, TruckTech, Transport Routier, and Road Today. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.


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  • It’s always a good chuckle to hear George Orwell mentioned every time the old school industry subjected to modern thinking. Just check the mayhem on our highways with the current lack of enforcement and low cost get er done mentality of the bottom feeders.

  • What they need to make mandatory is a system that detects and alerts law enforcement, the MTO and the insurance companies every time the truck crosses the centre line.

    You can’t even drive down highway 17 or 11 without having to take the shoulder to miss one of these new generation drivers on a DAILY basis. Just look at the number of head-on collisions going on in the north.

    But apparently the police and MTO aren’t concerned.