Last week, the FMCSA released a new electronic ID proposal for public comment. The proposal is for a wireless system that would give every interstate commercial motor vehicle (CMV) a unique electronic ID number. In doing so, police and FMCSA inspection agents would have the power to more quickly access records about specific vehicles.
The CVSA requested that the FMCSA consider this plan all the way back in 2015. Though the FMCSA accepted the request, it didn’t take action until now. The FMCSA will accept public comments here through November 22nd.
Proponents hope that the new rule will make safety officials’ lives easier. However, there are concerns about the system’s accuracy and privacy. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of the FMCSA’s new program.
Giving Each Truck an Electronic ID Can Help FMCSA Inspections
The benefits of an electronic ID system for CMVs are clear. It will allow safety enforcement officials to access a particular vehicle’s safety record more quickly. This will mean faster inspections and more focus on carriers and drivers that the agency thinks are high-risk.
The system should increase the efficiency of CMV inspections. By filtering out carriers with good safety records, the FMCSA should be able to focus its resources on problem carriers. This would mean fewer stops for carriers with clean records and more efficient stops in general.
However, the System Isn’t Perfect
The FMCSA’s plan has some clear upsides but also some potential downsides. Truckers may read about this proposal and think, “isn’t a USDOT number enough?” Indeed, USDOT numbers already do much of what the new electronic IDs would. Therefore, the agency is likely to receive a lot of comments about the redundancy of the new plan.
However, USDOT number readers are not always perfect. They can flag carriers with clean records or miss high-risk carriers. The point of the new program is to cut back on these errors, helping the FMCSA better use its resources.
Others may take issue with the program’s potential to invade a carrier’s privacy. In its notice about the proposal, the FMCSA noted that there are still questions about how much to include with each unique ID. The more the agency includes in each ID, the more carriers will feel their privacy is under attack.
It is also worth noting that the FMCSA rejected a similar request from the CVSA in 2013. In rejecting the request, the FMCSA cited a lack of information regarding the costs and benefits of the program. Evidently, the new program has clearer benefits for the FMCSA. Time will tell if those benefits actually come to fruition.