Could wireless inspections help weed out dangerous semi-trucks?
FMCSA plans on testing a wireless inspection mechanism that would flag dangerous trucks for closer roadside inspections
As part of the ongoing efforts to improve safety and ramp up the commercial vehicle inspection arena, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is conducting a live field test to see if wireless technology could actually be used to conduct roadside inspections.
The agency is aiming to improve quality while simultaneously balancing efficiency. Currently, inspections are routinely conducted by federal or other government inspectors. The wireless inspections are envisioned as being lighting fast, and would simply allow a compliant truck driver to continue on, rather than requiring him or her to stop. Truckers will be able to stay at speed while the commercial mobile radio service technology actually does the inspections in lieu of investigators!
The testing will be ongoing for the next three years. The study group is comprised of approximately 1,000 trucks and 2,400 miles of roads spanning Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia and Mississippi.
In order for this groundbreaking experiment to be successful, the wireless technology will have to streamline compliant truckers (who fortunately, in my own experience as a truck accident attorney, represent the majority of the truck drivers out there on the highway), while flagging and stopping the dangerous and non-compliant truckers.
So, how does this promising new technology work?
The wireless system will process data from a transmitter in the truck. The information is sent to the inspection facility, federal and state databases, and the carrier itself. Truckers who are non-compliant will receive a message to the operations center, and then on to the truck driver. That message will say one of two things:
- Turn into an inspection area; or
- Continue on the way!
Additionally, all of the data is transmitted to inspection officials and to FMCSA’s Safety Measurement System for tracking.
All of this will occur in a so-called “geofence area.” These are trigger points for the wireless system that will be positioned on the highway. Once the drivers enter the geofence area, data immediately starts to transmit to the operations center. The operations center then interprets this information (including driver credentials), truck information and hours of service and data pertaining to the carrier’s information.
Although it’s known that a message will somehow be sent to the trucker after the data has been processed, it is unclear how exactly that message will be relayed. For example, one idea is that trucker may be notified via stoplight: A red light would tell the driver to stop, green would mean continue, while yellow indicates that the data is insufficient (or some other error, requiring the trucker to stop).
This data will also be used to complement the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) system, which scores carriers and commercial drivers in the areas of driver fitness and hours of service compliance.
I think this is a wonderful idea — provided it’s properly implemented and fully functional. This could be a great way to streamline those good truckers who are compliant, and really weed out and scrutinize the bad trucking companies and dangerous truck drivers who disregard safety. It will help regulators, it will help safety directors, and it will help prevent the crashes that cause lawyers like myself to become involved – after it’s too late.
Hopefully, this will free up FMCSA resources and allow federal workers to focus on what’s really important — that small minority of bad trucking companies who endanger everyone on our roads.