FMCSA to recruit fleets for wireless inspection testing

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is moving closer to wireless vehicle and driver inspections.

FMCSA and partners Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and Innovative Software Engineering (ISE) will kick off a field operation test of wireless roadside inspection (WRI) next year in five Southeastern states involving as many as 1,000 commercial trucks and buses running in normal day-to-day operations.

Proponents of WRI believe the technology could offer fleet efficiencies more extensive than existing weigh station preclearances with cost savings to FMCSA.

ORNL is managing the three-year field test with ISE providing telematics and software services.

FMCSA said WRI technology could mean 25 electronic assessments for every one physical inspection that is done today.

The approach differs from today’s preclearance systems because it involves gathering safety and compliance information from all participants, not just in managing which trucks get inspected.

An earlier phase of the research examined three different approaches to wireless inspections. In a test done in New York, the trucks directly communicated safety data messages (SDMs) – driver, carrier and/or vehicle identification and other safety and compliance information– using 5.9-gigahertz dedicated short-range communications (DSRC).

A Kentucky test used optical readers or radio frequency transponders to identify commercial vehicles and then request a SDM from the carrier via the Internet.

And a Tennessee pilot used commercial mobile radio services (CMRS) – basically the kind of in-cab telematics services already used by thousands of motor carriers– to trigger a request through geo fencing and obtain the SDM from vendor or carrier systems.

In addition to a test of information delivery approaches, the earlier study involved testing a prototype government office system (GOS) – the processing unit for receiving and identifying SDMs not just from vehicles and carriers but also federal and state databases, such as the Commercial Driver’s License Information System (CDLIS).

The FOT has three principal goals, according to Gary Capps, technical director for ORNL. “We want to test robustness and data quality of the WRI system itself and determine if wireless inspections can increase the number of assessments and do so reliably,” he said.

The FOT will also help determine whether the wireless information processing system (WIPS) can handle the volume of data that it would need to if WRI were deployed nationwide, Capps said. Capps said questions remain on whether existing systems such as CDLIS will need to be queried each time.

Finally, the consortium will seek feedback from carriers, drivers and law enforcement on how beneficial WRI truly is or isn’t, Capps said.
ORNL and ISE will be conducting the FOT in Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee.

To ensure sufficient data, the trucks and buses to be used during the FOT must be domiciled in one of those states. The goal is to conduct at least one wireless inspection on each vehicle each day, Capps said.

ISE is targeting the beginning of 2015 to line up participants and wants to lock them in by April, said Joe Barry, ISE’s vice president of business development. ISE has identified some participants already, but still needs to line up most of the vehicles for the FOT.

Participants in the FOT will use a WRI module ISE has developed for its eFleetSuite compliance solution, which includes the ELD needed for the test. Although participants will need to buy the hardware for about $600, the $22-per-month subscription will be waived during the FOT. Existing eFleetSuite customers are eligible to participate as well.

Similar to existing bypass arrangements, fleets in the FOT will be able to continue driving unless they are flagged for an inspection, thereby improving both fuel economy and productivity. The program hopes to attract fleets that like to be on the leading edge in adapting emerging technologies and want to influence potential policies, he said.

Capps believes the biggest benefit might be the self-test available to carriers and drivers. At the beginning of each work day, the eFleetSuite module automatically runs a check to make sure that everything is in order – ELD records, the driver’s licensing and qualifications, the carrier’s operating authority and insurance are active and neither the tractor nor trailer is currently placed out of service, for example.

“We are leveraging existing telematics solutions so that the industry doesn’t have to invent something new,” said ISE president Hass Machlab.