Research exposes alarming cybersecurity vulnerabilities of ELDs

Tyson Fisher

New academic research reveals how vulnerable ELDs are to cyberattacks made by hacking into a truck’s system in seconds while driving alongside it.

Jeremy Daily, associate professor of systems engineering at Colorado State University, is no stranger to truck cybersecurity. He co-founded the CyberTruck Challenge in 2017 and has published numerous research papers related to the topic. However, his latest research exposes an alarming truth: Some electronic logging devices are easy to hack.

Along with research assistants Rik Chatterjee and Jake Jepson, Daily wanted to know how the ELD mandate affects cybersecurity for trucks. The researchers found they not only could access a truck’s accelerator pedal by simply driving by it but also could infect a fleet of trucks with malicious malware by hacking into just one ELD.

For this experiment, Jepson was able to take apart an ELD and do some reverse engineering. He found the default Wi-Fi password right away and from there spent several months developing a malicious version of the ELD’s firmware. Jepson told Land Line Now that this was his first time reverse-engineering a device and admitted a more experienced hacker likely could exploit vulnerabilities much faster.

Watch Land Line Now’s interview with Colorado State University researchers:

The researchers’ next task was to infect a truck – which proved remarkably simple.

Equipped only with a laptop and Wi-Fi range extender, they drove alongside a moving 2014 Kenworth T270. In just 30 seconds, they were able to access and infect the truck’s ELD with malicious firmware that allowed them to slow the truck down. Chatterjee, who was driving the Kenworth, said it would not speed up no matter how hard he pressed down on the pedal.

In this scenario, the researchers decided to slow down the truck for safety reasons. However, they just as easily could have forced the truck to speed up. And with access to the truck’s operating system, a hacker could access other functions, as well.

As if hacking one ELD were not bad enough, Daily and his team were able to infect several trucks by initially infecting just one.

The malicious firmware included what the researchers called a truck-to-truck worm. An ELD infected with this firmware can scan for nearby ELDs. Once a vulnerable one is identified, the truck-to-truck worm can spread the virus. The newly infected ELD then can repeat the scanning process, increasing the range of viral spread. This process can allow a hacker to infect an entire fleet of trucks that are close together, making truck stops, rest areas and yards prime targets.

ELD technology and regulations

Although only one brand of ELD was used, the researchers pointed out that manufacturers are using similar technology.

There are hundreds of certified ELDs available, but the research paper reported that there are relatively few distinct models. Essentially, companies are rebranding ELDs, rendering devices “clones of each other with minimal variations,” according to the study. Consequently, vulnerabilities present in one brand of ELD may be present in many others as well.

Another point of concern is the lack of regulation regarding ELD cybersecurity. Devices must meet technical specifications before registering with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, but manufacturers need only to self-certify.

The National Motor Freight Traffic Association has issued a list of recommended security requirements for ELDs. However, those recommendations appear to be largely ignored.

“I can say very confidently that if that guidance had been followed from the industry, then we wouldn’t have been able to demonstrate these exploits that Rik and Jake developed,” Daily told Land Line Now.

The researchers reached out to the ELD manufacturer before publishing the research. Daily said the manufacturer worked with him and his team to develop a firmware patch addressing the vulnerabilities.

What can truckers do to secure their truck?

There are measures truckers and fleet owners can take to mitigate any cybersecurity vulnerabilities.

First and foremost, truckers need to keep their ELDs updated. Like smartphones, ELDs may require periodic security updates that could include patches for newly discovered vulnerabilities. And if truckers have access to the device’s Wi-Fi password, they should change it to a stronger one.

Daily also believes in the power of the free market. If those in the industry – especially large fleets that buy in bulk – purchase only highly secured ELDs, it will force makers of less-secure ELDs to sink or swim.

The good news is that the industry has responded well to cybersecurity concerns in recent years. The truck used in this experiment was a 2014 Kenworth, a 10-year-old truck. In the past decade, truck manufacturers have improved security measures within their systems.

Click on links below to see videos on ELD vulnerabilities.

Top 5 accident response tips for trucking companies

Allysa A. Adams

The moment an accident occurs is not the time to put your company’s accident response plan into place.

Having an accident response plan in place, including training your dispatchers on the policy, will allow you to act as soon as an accident occurs. The faster you act, the better prepared you can be to prevent a lawsuit or claim, and the better prepared you will be to defend yourself in the event of a lawsuit.

Also, by acting fast and taking a proactive approach, you can potentially save money and litigation fees. Even if a suit is filed, taking a proactive approach allows you to collect evidence from the scene, perform surveillance, gather statements, or examine social media evidence to use in your favor at trial. Keep in mind these top 5 tips when preparing to respond to an accident:

Act fast and be prepared. When an accident occurs, the faster you act, the better you can respond. To effectively do this, you must start well before an accident occurs. The best place to start is by training your dispatchers on how to respond when an accident call comes in and let them know what they should be asking the driver, what information to obtain, and what additional individuals – including attorneys or field adjusters – to contact to help with the response.

Do not take statements from your driver. Do not have your driver make any written or recorded statements regarding the accident. This will have to be produced to opposing counsel if there is any future litigation. These statements will be used against your driver if any inconsistencies pop up later. Also, advise your driver not to give any statements to anyone or talk to anyone else about the accident. One thing you can do to completely protect your driver’s version of events is to immediately have an attorney speak to the driver. Everything said to the attorney would be confidential and protected by attorney-client privilege and could not be used later against the driver.

Bring in outside help. You will want to hire an independent adjuster to help investigate the accident. I recommend in all accidents, both big and small, you hire an independent adjuster to call the other driver and witnesses to obtain their statement. If liability is not in your favor, you can take proactive steps to avoid a future lawsuit, like paying for the damages to their vehicle or resolving any claims for bodily injury before they engage an attorney. Payment to a claimant up front can save future attorney’s fees and any future judgment. It is also good to have both sides of the story so you can get a full view of the accident.

Depending on the situation, you can also hire an independent adjuster for further investigation. If you believe that there may be security cameras in the area, from other businesses or entities, you can have the adjuster go out to the scene to try to obtain any videos that have footage of the accident. I always ask drivers if they know if there was a camera in the area and if they had a dash camera. These videos can turn a disputed liability case into one that you can argue completely in your favor. Also depending on the accident, especially in serious accidents, you may want to hire an independent adjuster to go out to the scene and take photographs. Also depending on the situation, especially in serious cases, you may want to hire an accident reconstructionist to inspect the vehicle, do a download of the black box of the vehicle, and to review the accident site to determine how the accident happened.

Social media. When you find out about a more severe accident, you or your attorney’s office should look for information concerning the accident. You can find out a lot of information about an accident just by checking on Facebook and other social media. Family members of the person hurt in the accident may comment on news articles or post about their loved one’s injuries.

Another important thing to do in these cases is to have your attorney or independent adjuster run a public record search and a social media search for the claimant. Make sure to keep checking on social media to see if they mention their injuries. Usually, once the claimant retains an attorney, they will be told to take their social media down, so it is important to find it immediately if you think there could be future litigation. Social media is very important and can sometimes be the piece of evidence that you need to prove the claimant is not injured. However, you must act fast on this. If you wait until a lawsuit is filed, it may be too late.

Preservation of evidence. You should make sure to preserve any evidence from the accident. This would include pulling the driver’s logs for the week before the accident. If a preservation letter is received from the claimant’s attorney, make sure that you save anything that is included in the letter so that you are prepared in case of potential litigation. If not saved, you can be accused of spoliation and may have sanctions issued by the court. If a preservation letter is received, have counsel send your preservation letter to have the claimant preserve any evidence they have regarding the accident.

This is not an exhaustive list and assumes accident response measures are planned before the accident. Please contact me for questions your trucking company has on accident response or for free accident response packets, forms, and checklists.

Navigating the aftermath: How to handle a truck-involved crash

Mark Murrell

When one of your trucks is involved in a crash event, it’s a stressful situation. There’s a lot to manage between helping your driver and working with the other parties involved.

The first thing that sets people on edge is the number of players involved. The police? Sure. But that’s just the start. Remember it can also include governmental departments for the environment, plus insurance stakeholders, lawyers, paralegals, the media, bystanders, residents and more. Yikes.

Now consider two things: your driver will have to deal with any number of these folks right in the middle of having one of the worst days of his or her career (and probably while being in shock); and the next thing these stakeholders are going to do is call you. Will you know what to say and what resources to mobilize? I caught up with John Farquhar from Summit Risk Solutions and Rick Morgan of Links Consulting to discuss this issue and what fleets should be doing when a driver is involved in a collision.

Take care of your drivers

When one of your drivers is involved in a crash — after checking to see if they’re physically and mentally alright of course – give them support. Lots of it. They’re going to need it and you must help them understand their rights and responsibilities.

  • The police are going to talk to them, and your driver needs to know their rights (including what they should and should not be saying)
  • Their cellphone may be confiscated right away as evidence—the vast amount of information that can be gotten from the forensic data analysis of a phone has made cellphone confiscation an almost standard practice
  • Were they carrying hazmat? First responders will be asking them for details in order to manage the situation
  • Your driver will probably want to contact their family (which will be difficult when their phone has been taken)

From policy to plan

When the police, government officials and insurance partners call you, your team will need to be ready. And the press? If it’s a big event, they’re going to write a story about you, whether you speak to them or not. Know what you want to say to them when they call so you at least have some input in how you are portrayed in the media. If the accident is especially severe, with loss of life, or significant property damage, consider hiring a PR person for counsel.

All of this requires more than just having a broad-strokes policy; it requires serious thinking about who will play what role on your team, what their responsibilities will be and how you want to control the situation. It requires a plan. When building a crash response plan, here are five elements to consider:

  1. Have a “serious event” team at your company More than a vague acknowledgment that managing the crisis should be the responsibility of ‘management,’ have a dedicated set of people with specific responsibilities. For example, driver outreach—there should be one person who will be the driver’s first point of contact when they need help, and this person should be responsible for checking on the driver’s welfare, notifying loved ones, and generally walking them through the process. Don’t bounce the driver around by telling them to call this person for one issue and that person for another. They’ve been through enough, so make it easy for them. Another team member should be responsible for contacting insurance and legal stakeholders, and have a point person for dealing with the media. Smaller fleets may only have one or two leaders in the company available for these roles, but it’s still critical that there is a clear understanding of who is doing what.
  2. Don’t leave your driver to figure it out themselves Given the enormous stress they will be under; even well-prepared drivers will have a tough time remembering everything they need to do if they are in a crash (and that is assuming they aren’t injured). So, make sure they have simple, easy-to-follow protocols and just one number to call to get through to the serious event team at your company. What’s more, know how you will get a replacement phone to your driver if (or when) theirs is confiscated for evidence.
  3. Know what to say and what will be said Journalists will do whatever they can to find out about the situation and the people involved—and they will construct a story out of whatever they find. You can decide whether you want to give them information or not, but just know that they will write one either way. Make sure you know ahead of time what you want said, who is going to say it, and how (phone interview, email, etc.). Have that information scripted and available so the message you want to send is consistent. This also goes for passing information on to the rest of the company. Rather than letting rumors fly, make sure you are the one controlling the information flow to your team.
  4. Practice Table talk your plan as if you were actually in the situation and you just got the call from a driver. Have the team leader clarify roles, troubleshoot communication and generally get people used to stepping into these roles when needed. Even better, run a drill. Have a driver work with you to put in a call as if they have had a crash event, but lead the rest of your crash team to believe that it is a real event. Afterwards, you’ll be able to talk them through what went well and what didn’t and give them a taste of the kind of stress they will be under when it happens.
  5. Use your insurance partners If you’re stuck on figuring out what else your plan should have, reach out to your insurer for guidance. Not only do they have experience, but they’ll also be invested in making sure your plan is comprehensive (and they’ll be thankful you’re doing it in the first place).

Remember that a serious event for a fleet is a ‘when’ rather than an ‘if’; getting prepared for it to keep your people and company in control is a must do.

Here’s what to expect when you and your truck get inspected

Truckers News Staff


With some 4 million commercial vehicles being inspected on North American highways during the course of a year — including several special concentrated inspection efforts conducted by law enforcement — it’s a pretty good chance that you will eventually be stopped. 

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance is an organization of safety officials and members of the trucking industry members who work to improve highway safety. It also organizes several inspection efforts each year and educates law enforcement agents and members of the trucking industry on the various types of inspections.

It also provides informational materials about its inspection program, including:

Here’s how the CVSA explains each level of inspection:

Level I – North American Standard Inspection

This 37-step inspection includes an examination of the driver’s license; Medical Examiner’s Certificate and Skill Performance Evaluation (SPE) Certificate (if applicable); alcohol and drugs; driver’s record of duty status, as required; hours of service; seat belt; vehicle inspection report(s) (if applicable); brake systems; cargo securement; coupling devices; driveline/driveshaft; exhaust systems; frames; fuel systems; lighting devices (headlamps, tail lamps, stop lamps, turn signals and lamps/flags on projecting loads); steering mechanisms; suspensions; tires; van and open-top trailer bodies; wheels, rims and hubs; windshield wipers; buses, motor coaches, passenger vans or other passenger-carrying vehicles – emergency exits, electrical cables and systems in engine and battery compartments, seating, hazardous materials or dangerous good (HM/DG) and specification cargo tank requirements, as applicable. HM/DG required inspection items will only be inspected by certified HM/DG and cargo tank inspectors, as applicable.

Level II – Walk-Around Driver/Vehicle Inspection

CVSA At a minimum, Level II Inspections must include examination of: driver’s license; Medical Examiner’s Certificate and Skill Performance Evaluation (SPE) Certificate (if applicable); alcohol and drugs; driver’s record of duty status as required; hours of service; seat belt; vehicle inspection report(s) (if applicable); brake systems; cargo securement; coupling devices; driveline/driveshaft; exhaust systems; frames; fuel systems; lighting devices (headlamps, tail lamps, stop lamps, turn signals, and lamps/flags on projecting loads); steering mechanisms; suspensions; tires; van and open-top trailer bodies; wheels, rims and hubs; windshield wipers; buses, motor coaches, passenger vans or other passenger-carrying vehicles – emergency exits, electrical cables and systems in engine and battery compartments, seating, and HM/DG requirements, as applicable. HM/DG required inspection items will only be inspected by certified HM/DG and cargo tank inspectors, as applicable. It is contemplated that the walk-around driver/vehicle inspection will include only those items that can be inspected without physically getting under the vehicle.

Level III – Driver/Credential/Administrative Inspection

This examination includes, where required and/or applicable: an examination of the driver’s license; Medical Examiner’s Certificate and Skill Performance Evaluation (SPE) Certificate; driver’s record of duty status; hours of service; seat belt; vehicle inspection report(s); and carrier identification and status. Mechanical equipment violations specific to a Level I or Level II Inspection should not be included in a Level III Inspection. If applicable, traffic violations/infractions should be included on a Level III Inspection.

Level IV – Special Inspections

Inspections under this heading typically include a one-time examination of a particular item. These examinations are normally made in support of a study or to verify or refute a suspected trend.

Level V – Vehicle-Only Inspection

This inspection includes each of the vehicle inspection items specified under the North American Standard Inspection (Level I), without a driver present, conducted at any location.

Level VI – North American Standard Inspection for Transuranic Waste and Highway Route Controlled Quantities (HRCQ) of Radioactive Material

This is an inspection for select radiological shipments, which include inspection procedures, enhancements to the North American Standard Level I Inspection, radiological requirements and the North American Standard Out-of-Service Criteria for Transuranic Waste and Highway Route Controlled Quantities of Radioactive material.

As of Jan. 1, 2005, all vehicles and carriers transporting HRCQ of radioactive material are regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and required to pass the North American Standard Level VI Inspection.

Previously, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) voluntarily complied with the North American Standard Level VI Inspection Program requirements.

Select radiological shipments include HRCQ of radioactive material as defined by Title 49 CFR 173.403. And, because only a small fraction of transuranics are HRCQ, the U.S. DOE decided to include its transuranic waste shipments in the North American Standard Level VI Inspection Program.

Level VII – Jurisdictional Mandated Commercial Vehicle Inspection

This is an inspection that is a jurisdictional-mandated inspection program that does not meet the requirements of any other level of inspection. An example will include inspection programs such as, but not limited to, school buses, limousines, taxis, shared-ride transportation, hotel courtesy shuttles and other intrastate/intra-provincial operations. These inspections may be conducted by CVSA-certified inspectors, other designated government employees or jurisdiction-approved contractors. Inspector training requirements shall be determined by each jurisdiction. No CVSA decal shall be issued for a Level VII Inspection but a jurisdiction-specific decal may be applied.

Level VIII – North American Standard Electronic Inspection

This electronic inspection must include, where required and/or applicable, a descriptive location, including GPS coordinates; electronic validation of who is operating the vehicle; appropriate driver’s license class and endorsement(s) for vehicle being operated; license status; valid Medical Examiner’s Certificate and Skill Performance Evaluation (SPE) Certificate; current driver’s record of duty status; hours-of-service compliance; USDOT or (Canada) NSC number; power unit registration; operating authority; Unified Carrier Registration (UCR) compliance; and federal out-of-service orders.

The North American Standard Level VIII Electronic Inspection is an inspection conducted electronically or wirelessly while the vehicle is in motion without direct interaction with an enforcement officer. To be considered a complete Level VIII Electronic Inspection, a data exchange must include each of the required and/or applicable data points listed in the CVSA North American Standard Level VIII Electronic Inspection definition.


10 laws that changed how trucking works

A look back at some of the top labor issues in the freight-hauling industry since deregulation in the 1980s—and even before—as well as the notable impacts of ongoing worker and driver challenges.

FleetOwner Staff

Although the federal government doesn’t regulate labor in trucking per se, the impact regulations have on commercial drivers can’t be ignored.

The Labor Day weekend gives us here at FleetOwner an opportunity to look back at some of the top labor issues in the industry since deregulation in the 1980s and the effects of some notable and ongoing worker and driver challenges.

Deregulation was all about lowering economic barriers—such as higher insurance rates and higher registration costs—for motor carriers entering the industry. In turn, the government started raising safety barriers.

“All of these laws started getting passed to raise the safety bar,” Dave Osiecki, an industry veteran since the mid-1980s and a senior consultant at Scopelitis Transportation Consulting (STC), told FleetOwner. “Safety-based rules are directed at labor and the drivers largely. When you think about safety, it’s operational safety, vehicle, and truck safety, but if you really want to improve safety in trucking, it’s really about the person–the human–because that’s who makes the mistakes, unfortunately. That’s why a lot of the safety regulations are really aimed at labor, if you will.”

More than 40 years ago, that shift in deregulation ended up leading to an increased number of new companies coming into the business, Steve Keppler, who is co-director at STC, pointed out. “It depressed rates, but it also created efficiencies and opened up competition in the capital market,” he explained.

Keppler started his 29-year transportation career with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), where he served in various regulatory, research, and policy development positions. He also spent 15 years with the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, the last six of which he served as the group’s executive director. 

“At the end of the day, the ultimate goal in transportation is to be safe,” Keppler said. “The response to deregulation in many respects was a slew of laws and regulations to try to get to that point. Since we’re not regulating you economically anymore, we have a responsibility to ensure safety on the highways. We are going to shift our focus to safety, so things like the electronic logging device mandate, hours-of-service changes, medical changes, drug testing, and the creation of the CDL under the Commercial Motor Vehicle Act of 1986—that was a big deal.”

In April 1992, the CDL went into effect. According to trucking radio icon Dave Nemo, who has been an in-cab companion for over-the-road truckers for the last 50 years or so, when the CDL law took effect, motor carriers and drivers expressed the same fear and trepidation that permeated the industry leading up to ELD mandate compliance in 2017.

“People didn’t know what it was all about,” Nemo said. “The hope among the drivers was: ‘Finally, we are like airplane pilots. We can drive across country with one license, and it’s a federal license.’ But we found out it was the same thing, only different, but now the federal government has a hand in the states that they didn’t have before. So, the FMCSA is born and then all of the subsequent things that FMCSA has brought about.”

At the end of the day, carriers will remain concerned with anything that disrupts daily business, particularly for companies with smaller operating margins, Keppler pointed out. And even though many of the safety rules that have been implemented since deregulation created a higher standard for those entering the business, drivers are often dealt a bad hand.

This gallery illustrates that labor issues in transportation are more important than ever—especially with the ongoing truck driver shortfall and technician shortages predicted to become worse over the next decade.

“It’s always a balancing act,” Keppler said. “You need to evaluate things on their totality. Yes, safety is important and critical, but we also want to make sure that we have a healthy, productive, and committed driver workforce. If you look at it from a safety and risk perspective, for drivers that have medical issues and who are not happy, there is research to show that those drivers are riskier.”

“It’s incumbent upon the government and carriers to make it as best of an environment as they can for those drivers because of that,” he added. “We see a lot of carriers creating new benefits programs, raising driver pay, and doing a lot of things to help retain drivers by making them as safe, healthy, and productive as possible.”

Motor Carrier Safety Act of 1984

The Motor Carrier Safety Assistance program was authorized in 1982 shortly after deregulation. What that did was establish a program for the federal government to get states involved in oversight, explained Steve Keppler, co-director at Scopelitis Transportation Consulting. It set up a grant program and gave states money to help oversee drivers and motor carriers. Related to that, in 1984, the Motor Carrier Safety Act was established. It basically required the federal government to make sure states had compatible and consistent regulations to not impede interstate commerce, Keppler added. The Motor Carrier Safety Act of 1984 established rules, regulations, standards, and orders to assure that commercial motor vehicles are safely maintained, equipped, loaded, and operated; the responsibilities imposed upon commercial drivers do not impair drivers’ ability to operate safely; the physical condition of drivers is adequate to enable them to drive safely; and the operation of commercial motor vehicles does not create deleterious effects on the physical condition of drivers.

Commercial Motor Vehicle Act of 1986: Creation of the CDL

To improve safety, in 1986, Congress enacted the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act (CMVSA), which standardized the minimum requirements for obtaining and retaining a commercial driver’s license (CDL) and prohibited drivers from holding more than one CDL. The law was intended to improve highway safety by removing unsafe commercial vehicles and unqualified and unsafe drivers from the roads. The CDL took effect in April 1992 and has been a gateway for many of the regulations the industry sees today.

Hours-of-service regulations

The first HOS rules were established in 1937 by the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC). They allowed 10 hours of driving time and eight hours of off-duty time within a 24-hour day as well as 60- to 70-hour limits for seven- and eight-day time frames, and time in the sleeper berth needed to total eight hours over two undefined periods. These regulations changed little until the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s 2003 final rule (effective in 2004). The ICC had been abolished in 1995, leaving rulemaking to the FMCSA. Under the 2003 final rule, drivers had 11 hours of driving time and 10 hours of off-duty time, and sleeper berth time totaled 10 or more hours over two periods, each with a minimum of two hours. The 2005 final rule changed the sleeper berth provisions to provide one of the sleeper berth periods to be at least eight consecutive hours, in addition to another two-hour period in the sleeper or off-duty, totaling 10 hours off-duty. Some critics said requiring eight-hour chunks of time in a sleeper berth was overly restrictive to drivers who wanted to utilize naps or team drivers who want to switch between each other with more flexible shifts. Critics also said that the mandatory two-hour break shouldn’t cut into drivers’ 14-hour shift, impeding their ability to work and discouraging them from taking the break. In 2017, a 34-hour restart rule was enacted that allowed drivers to reset their workweek (60/70 hours in 7/8 days) after 34 hours of consecutive rest. FMCSA studies found 34 hours is the optimal amount of time to reduce fatigue-related incidents. The 2020 changes also included the option of a 7/3 sleep/break split for increased flexibility and a 30-minute break requirement after eight cumulative hours of driving. HOS regulations continue to be a contentious topic to this day in the industry.

Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) enacted the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate in February 2016, and carriers had to comply by the end of 2017. The mandate required drivers to use ELDs to track their schedules to ensure hours-of-service (HOS) compliance. It also established standardized technical specifications for ELDs. Drivers previously logged their hours on paper, which critics said allowed carriers to abuse their drivers by encouraging them to fudge numbers, pushing them past their HOS limits. ELD rule exceptions exist for drivers of vehicles manufactured before model year 2000, driveaway-towaway drivers where the vehicle being driven is the commodity being delivered, and drivers who use paper logs no more than eight days during any 30-day period. The FMCSA estimates that ELDs reduce crashes and save lives.

Medical certification requirements

Medical certification requirements have quite a long history of evolution in the trucking industry—and they have not been developed without controversy. But if you don’t have a valid certification or don’t keep it current, you don’t have a job driving a truck. There are stiff penalties if a driver falsifies a certification. Myriad medical certification rules took effect in 2014. By law, every CDL/CLP holder must have a U.S. Department of Transportation-mandated physical exam annually (or every other year if you’re younger and healthy) and have a medical certificate on file with their state’s department of motor vehicles. The certificate confirms the driver is healthy enough to safely perform the demanding job of driving a commercial vehicle. The exam must be performed by a medical examiner who is listed in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) National Registry. Regulations allow states to revoke the CDL privileges of drivers who don’t have valid medical examiner certificates (MEC). With this all comes advice from FMCSA on related issues such as proper use of prescription medications, fitness, nutrition, and control of health issues common among truckers such as obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Obtaining and keeping a medical certification takes more effort than simply showing up for a physical exam. Diet and exercise are important, but passing the DOT physical (and keeping your driving privileges intact) begins with the right attitude about your health. Medical issues such as hearing and vision impairments and diabetes have FMCSA restrictions attached to the medical certificate process. After seven years, FMCSA also recently released a draft of its Medical Examiners Handbook that offers revised guidance to help examiners ensure that drivers are healthy and is seeking comment right now on the handbook.

Driver drug testing and the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse

It’s taken some time for the dust to settle on truck driver drug-and-alcohol testing and the reporting of those results to the more than 2-year-old federal Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse, which is a secure online database that employers, state licensing agencies, and law enforcement can use to retrieve information about a CDL/CLP holder’s status. The clearinghouse has had a profound impact on safety but also on the trucking industry workforce and, indirectly, job satisfaction. Every CDL/CLP holder by law must be registered with the clearinghouse. For testing positive at least once, more than 135,000 drivers have been sidelined and placed into “return-to-duty” status for counseling and mandatory testing since the start of 2020. The safety benefits of the clearinghouse—and its role in helping to keep drivers impaired by substances off the road—is nearly universally acknowledged by the industry. Statistically, however, testing and the clearinghouse system have kept tens of thousands of truckers from driving. More than 100,000 of the 135,000 since 2020 are in prohibited status with the clearinghouse, meaning they can’t get back behind the wheel and make a living in the industry, at least not as drivers. The industry is short around 80,000 drivers and might be down about 160,000 by decade’s end, according to an American Trucking Associations estimate. Squabbles since before 2020 have erupted over the testing methods sanctioned by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the clearinghouse. The only testing method currently approved is urinalysis, which most often flags marijuana-using truckers (81,492 since 2020). But some stakeholders who use it during pre-screening of applicants are still pushing for hair-follicle testing because of its ability to detect use of harder drugs farther back in time—and the U.S. Department of Transportation has approved the addition of oral fluid testing to the clearinghouse-sanctioned testing methods, though this is still under review.

Employee Misclassification/Independent Contractor Status | California’s AB5

In 2019, California Assembly Bill 5 (AB5) was passed. It set forth a legal test for independent contractors that, if failed, would require employers to hire these contractors as employees. There are many professions exempted from the law, but truck driving is not among them. The owner-operator model as it has existed for decades does not meet the legal test. Many carriers preemptively hired their contractors as employees. Many owner-operators were left scratching their heads as how to comply with the law. The law offers little to no guidance on how drivers can comply, as it is not specific to trucking. There are also questions regarding interstate commerce, on how the law affects owner-operators from outside the state operating in California. There is also concern that copycat laws will arise in other states, such as Senate Bill 863 in New Jersey. A preliminary injunction was issued by the U.S. Southern District Court of California to allow truck drivers to act as independent contractors during ensuing litigation from the California Trucking Association (CTA). However, with the Supreme Court opting to decline an appeal from the 9th Circuit, the district court had to repeal the injunction, formally lifting it Aug. 29. CTA intends to file a new motion for preliminary injunction via an argument based on the Federal Aviation and Administration Authorization Act of 1994. Briefing on the new motion will take place this fall. Additionally, the court will consider a motion from the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), according to Scopelitis law firm.

Entry-level driver training requirements

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) on Feb. 7, 2022, enacted a federal standard to obtain a commercial driver’s license. The regulation applies to people obtaining a Class A or Class B CDL for the first time after Feb. 7. It does not apply to any applicant who obtained a new CDL or commercial learner’s permit before Feb. 7, but it does apply to anybody upgrading an existing Class A or B CDL, or getting a hazardous materials (H), passenger (P), or school bus (S) endorsement for the first time. Driving schools are required to register with FMCSA. The entry-level driver training (ELDT) standards do not require a minimum number of hours, but they do require that applicants pass a theory instruction assessment and behind the wheel training. The federal regulations do not supersede state ELDT requirements that exceed the FMCSA’s minimum standards. For example, if a state has minimum hour requirements, drivers in that state must still meet the requirements. At the time of the regulation’s enactment, American Trucking Associations estimated that 85% of entry-level drivers were already trained with curricula that met the ELDT standards. “The entry-level driver training rule is a big deal and has been a long time coming,” STC’s Keppler said. “It was a difficult road. The process took over 20 years to get that done. It’s rules like that and ELDs, and driver medical certification—some view them as a negative, but they are also professionalizing the driver. It’s creating a higher standard for people entering the business.”

Exemption from the Fair Labor Standards Act

The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) established overtime pay requirements for U.S. workers. However, these overtime pay regulations do not apply to motor carrier employees. Section 13(b)(1) of the FLSA provides an exemption for employees within the authority of the Secretary of Transportation pursuant to Section 204 of the Motor Carrier Act of 1935. This covers employees of motor carriers or private motor carriers. It also affects drivers, driver’s helpers, loaders, or mechanics whose duties affect the operational safety of vehicles on public highways in interstate or foreign commerce. There is a small vehicle exception, where employees who work with vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds or less are not exempt from overtime pay requirements.

Implementation of the CSA scoring system

From FMCSA: “CSA is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s data-driven safety compliance and enforcement program designed to improve safety and prevent commercial motor vehicle crashes, injuries, and fatalities.” It took quite a bit—and quite a lot of debate—to get there starting in 2010. The regulator’s safety scoring system is controversial to say the least—it’s still being challenged and tweaked to this day—and it has broad implications for trucking as a business, insurance, and liability. CSA stands for Compliance, Safety, Accountability and consists of three core components: the Safety Measurement System (SMS), interventions, and a Safety Fitness Determination (SFD) rating system to determine the safety fitness of motor carriers. It’s all about whether a carrier is judged to be safe to operate on the nation’s highways and byways. The SMS uses data from roadside inspections and crash reports from the last two years, and data from investigations to identify carriers with safety performance and compliance problems for interventions. FMCSA investigators are equipped with a variety of interventions to contact and work with motor carriers that have safety performance and compliance problems. The SFD assesses the safety fitness of motor carriers to help FMCSA stand down carriers that are unfit. CSA is among carriers’ biggest concerns, Steve Keppler, co-director at Scopelitis Transportation Consulting, observed. “FMCSA has been silent on that for a while,” Keppler said. “Liability is a big issue right now with a lot of trucking companies and their insurance rates. A carrier concern is not knowing what the outcome of CSA will be and what [FMCSA] will do with that.”

The impact of truck tire maintenance on diesel fuel economy cannot be understated

Seth Skydel

The science is simple—the air pressure in a tire is what carries the load, explained John Ramaika, regional fleet manager at Double Coin. Therefore, an underinflated tire requires more energy, meaning more fuel to roll. “The simplest and most neglected maintenance item which will impact tire performance and fuel economy is proper inflation,” he said.

The math is simple as well—there is a rule of thumb that 10% underinflation will cost about 1% in fuel economy, related Jim Garrett, long haul product category manager at Michelin North America. “Tires are designed for a specific amount of deformation for traction and stability and underinflated tires have more deformation,” he said. “The energy used to deform the tire comes from somewhere– ultimately it comes from the fuel tank.”

It’s easy to see how effective tire pressure management can help lower fuel costs.

“Tire maintenance and good policies and procedures contribute greatly to fuel economy because proper air pressure allows tires to perform at their maximum design levels,” said Tom Clauer, Yokohama Tire’s senior manager of commercial product planning. “Air pressure is the single most important component of any fleet maintenance practice as underinflated tires have a direct correlation to increased fuel consumption.

“Every fleet should set, maintain and enforce a strict policy concerning air pressure and it should be checked cold and daily,” Clauer added. “Drivers are the point of the spear for this and each time that equipment is in the shop for any service or maintenance, air pressure should be checked and adjusted. They should also take note of any irregular wear, which is usually an indication of a deeper issue, including the possibility of improper air pressure.”

Greg Kidd, application engineer at Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, U.S. and Canada, said the manufacturer encourages drivers and fleet managers to be proactive about tire management.

“As a routine part of a pre-trip inspection, fleets should check all tire inflation pressures,” Kidd advised. “During normal operating conditions, tire inflation pressure can increase 15% to 20%. Therefore, it is recommended to evaluate tire pressures before driving begins when the tire is cold to ensure a more accurate pressure check. Bridgestone also recommends replacing the valve stem seal, core and steel threaded flow-through cap every time a tire is mounted.

“There is no significant difference in proper maintenance practices between the steer, drive and trailer tires,” Kidd continued. “ However, it is important to keep the tractor and the trailer axles aligned. That will ensure the tires are rolling straight down the road, which will maximize tire life as well as fuel efficiency.”

Michelin’s Jim Garrett said fleets should invest in new valve stems every time a tire is replaced, digital tire gauges for maintenance personnel, pressure stickers on the vehicle for each wheel position, and driver and maintenance personnel training, which the company offers on request.

“Training is also available through your trucking association, your local tire dealer and suppliers of any specialty equipment you might purchase,” Garrett added. “We also recommend becoming familiar with the service manual provided by the tire manufacturer.”

At Yokohama, according to Tom Clauer, classroom training can be accessed through associations and onsite training can be conducted by a tire manufacturer representative and/or engineering staff. The company also offers a commercial video training series.

ATA’s Technology and Maintenance Council is an excellent resource for fleets, noted John Ramaika at Double Coin. For example, he pointed to the TMC Radial Tire Conditions Analysis Guide for a comprehensive review of tire conditions covering probable causes and recommended actions.

Bridgestone’s Greg Kidd went on to point out that there are several options available for tire maintenance training, including on-site courses for fleets or sessions at the Bridgestone Texas Proving Grounds facility. TMC, he added, offers manuals such as Tire and Wheel Maintenance Basics for Drivers.

“While it would be difficult to quantify exact fuel savings from proper inspection and service procedures,” Kidd said, “one of the most effective ways to accomplish this is by working closely with a tire manufacturer to create a comprehensive tire management program.”

“Many of today’s trucks have sophisticated on-board monitoring systems that can be used to measure fuel economy,” said Jim Garrett at Michelin. “The data can provide an understanding of variables such as routes and drivers and can take time to collect, but many fleets are getting good at this and clearly recognize the quick payback in improved tire maintenance.”