The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has requested comment on a proposed rule it claims will make enforcement officials’ jobs easier by requiring every tractor (and possibly every trailer) operating interstate to automatically and wirelessly transmit identifying information to enforcement personnel. FMCSA initiated this proposal at the request of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, who want to identify carriers more easily near inspection areas. Comments on the agency’s proposal are due November 22, 2022 and can be submitted here. The complete list of comment requests can be found here (and below). At the time of publishing, FMCSA has accepted over 1,700 comments.
FMCSA changes position on electronic identifiers.
CVSA originally petitioned for an electronic identification mandate in 2010, but the agency rejected the request “because the Agency lacked information necessary to estimate the costs and benefits of an electronic ID mandate.” Two years later, CVSA again requested an electronic ID mandate, and the agency eventually granted the petition, resulting in this advanced notice of proposed rulemaking.
As justification for requiring carriers and/or drivers to spend more time on compliance and to give even more personal information to the government, FMCSA notes that the number of commercial trucks on the road “far outpaces enforcement resources” and that electronic ID technology will help enforcement officers better identify “high-risk carriers and drivers,” a task currently accomplished with license plate and USDOT number readers and visual observation of safety hazards.
Thus, the agency proposes yet another device that carriers or drivers must purchase, install, use, maintain, and troubleshoot that provides personal information to the government all for the goal of easing the burden on inspection officials. And the agency’s specific comment requests reveal numerous potential pitfalls and worse.
FMCSA’s comment requests reveal the potential expansive scope and use of electronic IDs.
- Whether the electronic ID should include driver-specific information like HOS, CDL info, and medical certification?
- Whether the EID should also include trip-specific information like axle weight, pre-trip inspection date and time, and GPS coordinates and time when requested?
- Who should be responsible for providing the data for the electronic ID?
These questions imply additional privacy intrusions and compliance work for carriers and drivers.
FMCSA also acknowledges that it may want to use electronic IDs for additional data collection in the future and asks whether they should be constructed to allow additional functionality “as new safety and other vehicle technologies emerge,” implying that identification may be only the first step in a line of additional warrantless data collection.
The agency also asks what should happen to the electronic ID when a vehicle is sold or when vehicles are used by multiple carriers regularly and whether power units and trailers need transponders, demonstrating the myriad logistical issues involved.
The warrantless inspections must comply with the Constitution.
The options proposed and implied in the agency’s comment request amount to administrative inspections of persons and trucks. Because inspection officials do not obtain warrants before conducting these inspections, the government must ensure that its rules adequately protect individuals’ privacy by closely limiting the scope of the searches and officer discretion. The request leaves open the question of individual privacy (“Are there privacy, health, or coercion concerns FMCSA should consider in a future proposal?”).
How to comment on this proposal:
Below are the questions that FMCSA is asking the public about its electronic ID proposal. Your comments and answers to those questions can be submitted here.
If you would like to read the original agency Notice and Request for Comments, you may read it here.