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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Improving the Safety of Commercial Motor Vehicle Operations with In-Motion Roadside Inspections

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Under FMCSA’s roadside inspection program, inspectors assess motor carrier compliance with federal safety regulations. The resulting data enables the agency to prioritize carriers most in need of intervention.  

The U.S. DOT Volpe Center is supporting FMCSA in developing and implementing the Level VIII Inspection Program Operational Test, which will apply new technologies to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of roadside enforcement while mitigating the current process’s climate impacts and minimizing supply chain disruptions. 

FMCSA has a finite number of federal and state safety officials available to conduct inspections; due to the increasing number of CMVs on the road, only a fraction of them can be inspected. Additionally, roadside inspections often occur in the middle of a driver’s trip, when they may be conveying time-sensitive goods from one point to the next. The repeated acceleration, deceleration, and idling involved when a CMV waits in an inspection queue produces undesirable greenhouse gas emissions. 

As envisioned, Level VIII inspections would be conducted wirelessly while the CMV is in motion, without direct interaction with a roadside inspector. The in-motion inspection results would be entered into the carrier’s safety record. Carriers identified by the wireless inspection as higher risk would be required to stop for a conventional inspection. Electronic data would be pre-populated in the inspection report, reducing both the amount of time the vehicle spent off-road and the potential for manual entry errors.  

Among Level VIII inspection’s potential benefits are a tenfold increase in the total number of vehicle inspection data collected annually, while enabling better decisions about which carriers to prioritize for inspection. Additionally, greenhouse gas emissions would be proportionally reduced as would delays and supply chain disruptions compared to a conventional vehicle inspection. 

Bringing the federal government, state partners, technology experts, and motor carriers together, FMCSA will design and implement a multi-state operational test of Level VIII inspections to measure the feasibility and potential impact of nationwide adoption. The effort will define the IT requirements for wirelessly collecting the Level VIII inspection data; assess how data would be integrated into FMCSA’s policies and procedures; and evaluate the impacts of these in-motion inspections on companies, FMCSA, and the environment. 

The U.S. DOT Volpe Center will provide program management, communications, data analysis, and stakeholder engagement support before, during, and after the operational test. 

The U.S. DOT Volpe Center has a long relationship with FMCSA, continuously improving safety management systems. The U.S. DOT Volpe Center team is uniquely equipped to provide support to propose an operational test design, and to estimate the safety, environmental, and efficiency benefits of a fully implemented Level VIII inspection program. Similarly, expertise in measuring motor carrier safety enables the U.S. DOT Volpe Center to support FMCSA in understanding how best to incorporate the wireless inspection data into their safety programs. 

The U.S. DOT Volpe Center’s IT expertise will help FMCSA gather and document requirements for an application programming interface that will enable technology vendors to collect the data necessary for Level VIII inspections.

A kick-off meeting to launch the planning stage of the operational test was held in May 2022. More recently, the U.S. DOT Volpe Center supported FMCSA at the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) Level VIII Inspection Forum on March 28-29, 2023. The forum allowed FMCSA to hear feedback from state enforcement personnel, motor carriers, and the technology industry on the benefits, challenges, and future vision for a Level VIII inspection program. The project, with the U.S. DOT Volpe Center’s continuing involvement, will be a multi-year effort that will continue through at least May 2024.