Wireless Inspections By DOT

Think of it….not having to stop at the DOT inspection station. No waiting in line…no sitting on the scales or worrying about the inspector going page by page through your log book. No more being late for delivery appointments because you were held up at a surprise inspection.

These thoughts, along with increased fuel efficiency, not having to stop at
roadside inspections, and CSA credits could all become a reality in the not so distant future thanks to the Smart Roadside Initiative-a research project of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The purpose of the SRI is to identify technology that allows vehicles to not only communicate with each other but also to communicate with surface transportation infrastructure-including electronic wireless roadside inspection (WRI) sites that can assess the driver and vehicle safety records while trucks and buses are in motion.

The e-inspections offer several benefits, including fuel economy and safety as the inspections do not require the vehicles to slow down or stop. The wireless inspections would utilize one of three platforms; Commercial Mobile Radio Services, Dedicated Short -Range Communications and Universal ID technologies. All three of these were tested in a pilot that the FMCSA reported on in June. The FMCSA stated that “while none of the methods were perfect, the WRI system holds promise and that it should move forward if the technological and implementation challenges can be overcome.”(TT 7/21). With the improved efficiency and utilization of already existing technology, such as infrared screening systems, electronic logging devices and in cab communicators, the WRI would scan and transfer data from the truck to an operations center where it would be combined with the companies fleet information already existing in state and federal databases. The collective data would then be sent to the processing system to be evaluated. Once the processing is complete the driver will be sent a message either telling them to pull over for full inspection, or continue on. The Idea is to use geofencing. Once a truck entered a certain”Fenced” area, it would be scanned, and all the information transferred and analyzed, before he reached the other edge. The scan would yield information on the tires, brakes, license plates, weight, and general condition of truck and trailer, along with driver information.

The goal is that with the use of technologies geared toward safety, inspections will become more efficient and effective. The WRI’s would allow drivers and companies that comply with all state and federal regulations, to bypass roadside inspections all together, allowing the inspectors in the field to thoroughly and accurately inspect the vehicles and drivers on the roads that truly need it. In theory this would result in more inspections being completed, fully and completely, with the outcome of getting unsafe trucks and drivers off the roads.

While there are already inspections and standards in place, the FMCSA does admit to and acknowledge the flaws in the current system. They are hoping that with the implication of these WRI’s it will help fill the gaps in the current processes. With the increasing number of commercial vehicles on the roads, and the decreasing number of inspectors (currently only 13,000 inspectors for 4.5 million registered trucks) thorough inspections are not being completed. According to the FMCSA even though 3.5 million roadside inspections are completed annually there is insufficient data to compile complete CSA BASIC percentages on 89%of carriers. According to Duane DeBruyne of the FMCSA “the near term objective of SRI is to create and test a prototype system that integrates numerous roadside safety screening technologies into one interface, aiding roadside safety enforcement by reducing the number of screening interfaces that must be observed.

Preparations are under way to test prototype wireless roadside inspection systems already. The tests will take place in Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee. The Mississippi Department of Transportation has confirmed that the state is already testing WRI technology using a mobile inspection station. The tests are expected to include 1,000 trucks and scheduled to be completed by the end of 2017. Next they will analyze the existing roadside safety technologies and identify the gaps, and a benifits analysis will be conducted and a tool developed for use by states in assessing their roadside safety technology needs. Debruyne states that “the success of of SRI does not require changes being made to vehicles and highways, and it would be a big step forward to provide a consolidated e-screening interface for roadside safety enforcement personnel.”

Government agencies are not the only ones involved with trying to improve trucking efficiency either. In 2013 Drivewyze, PeopleNet, Zonar And XRA conducted and e-inspection demonstration for FMCSA and FHWA officials. Two commercial trucks, and one motor coach equipped with new mobile safety-compliance technology participated in a drive-by demonstration at the West Friendship Weigh Station and Inspection Site in Maryland. Observers witnessed the trucks and bus electronically communicating with the weigh-station system as they approached the facility without having to slowdown. Important safety information-including driver identification, electronic-logging records and vehicle weight- were communicated in real time while the vehicles remained in motion, at highway speeds.

While there are clearly benefits of this technology, for all aspects of the trucking industry getting the policy and program implementation from the FMCSA is one of the missing elements. However, no one is interested in a mandatory program. Everyone involved is currently leaning toward a voluntary compliance program, where carriers would have the option to participate and share additional information. For the companies that choose to share, there would be some sort incentive put into place, such as CSA credit, and being able to avoid stomping for roadside inspections, ever.

With the help of this technology, and this option for trucking companies, the roadside inspectors would be able to concentrate on full inspections on trucks and drivers that need it while at the same time increasing the information in the CSA database, and increasing the accuracy and efficiency of the CSA BASIC scoring system. There are simply not enough inspectors to currently preform the inspections, and gather enough information to sufficiently supply their databases.

What are your thoughts??? By-pass roadside inspections and the hold up in your day…or not? Let us knwo what you think!

Until next week,
Heather.

*Transport Topics July 21st issue was a main source of information.*