The Next Potential Messed Up FMCSA Mandate

By now, most of us have heard of ELDs, and the new ELD mandate (our last blog was entirely about ELD waivers). It sure seems like modern technology is taking over every aspect of our lives nowadays, and not everybody is happy about it. But if you thought ELDs made you mad, you’ll love this next thing!! Something we haven’t heard much about is the Wireless Roadside Inspection (WRI) Research Project. The ultimate goal of the WRI project was to implement a computer system that can identify commercial motor vehicles (CMVs), potential registration data, hours-of–service data, and compliance or safety violation data that might exist, all without the drivers ever having to stop, or even know. A “non-invasive” inspection at highway speeds. After the electronic inspection, a wireless inspection report would be sent to inspectors to help them identify non-compliant CMVs. Sometime in December 2011 (based on the timeline given here), they went into Phase III of the project: Field Operational Testing (FOT). Unfortunately for them, testing only lasted for a year, but during that time the FMCSA gathered data on certain violation areas from the participating carriers’ commercial vehicles. In December 2017, the project lost its funding after a good 10+ year run. Something about that helps us sleep a little easier at night, but keep in mind that they had been pushing for ELDs since 1980, AND the original ELD mandate in the year 2000 was struck down by a court order in 2004. So it makes you wonder if the WRI Research Project really is dead for good?

With that last thought in mind, it got us thinking about the implications of a system like this. How exactly will the WRI computer system work? Will it be able to communicate with a truck’s ELD? We read the boring, three-page “Design and Implementation of Wireless Roadside Inspection Systems Letter Report to Congress” here, but couldn’t find specific answers about PRECISELY how the WRI system would get this data. They talked about communications protocols (cellular and satellite-based technologies–the same technologies used by the ELDs), but they never indicated what the WRI system would be communicating with on the CMV side. Even more interesting is this: the letter specifically mentions collecting real-time data on the driver’s license status, carrier operating authority, licensing and insurance, inspection selection score, and HOS. Real-time HOS data? What else might the WRI system communicate with BESIDES the ELD to get all of that in one shot? Again, we read the entire letter to Congress, as well as the FMCSA webpage about it. (We also looked at a PowerPoint presentation from an FMCSA research committee meeting, and some old newsletter from 2009 about the WRI project entering Phase II.) We could not find where they revealed what would be “talking back” to the WRI system from the CMV side.

This whole WRI project thing reminded us of 1984, the classic, dystopian novel by George Orwell about a tyrannical government who has constant, over-reaching surveillance of its own people. We understand we’re a little melodramatic, but these things are a slippery slope…just look at the history of any totalitarian or authoritarian state. Like we said, we’re sleeping a little easier tonight knowing this project has lost funding. But when the government sets their minds to doing something that allows them more power with less effort, they seem to like doing that.

What are your guys’ thoughts on this? What will you say if we encounter a WRI project zombie with renewed funding a few years down the road?

Bailey Leavitt

Digital Marketing Intern at DOT Readiness Group
Bailey's journey in digital marketing and blog writing began with DOT Readiness Group, and we're proud to see the other opportunities that have opened up to her as a result of her work with us.

Bailey's clarity on the voice and vision of DOT Readiness Group has allowed her to create quality content for all of us to enjoy.:-)
Bailey Leavitt