Pennsylvania enforcement enthused about new inspection tool

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Commercial drivers approaching the inspection stop at the Bellwood exit off of Pennsylvania’s Interstate 99 may notice a small trailer off the exit ramp. No, it’s not a little camper, it’s a smart trailer that identifies and singles out illegal and unsafe commercial motor vehicles.

According to Lt. Ray Cook of the Pennsylvania State Police Commercial Vehicle Safety Division, the trailer captures images of trucks as they enter the inspection stop. These images are able to send license plate and DOT number information to the Commonwealth Law Enforcement Assistance Network (CLEAN), a conduit to the National Crime Information Center and the National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System.

Once the plate and DOT number is sent to CLEAN, the system is able to determine who the truck belongs to, whether or not it is stolen, FMCSA violations (e.g., out-of-service orders) and Compliance, Safety, and Accountability scores. This information is sent back to the trailer and relayed to an officer’s laptop at the inspection stop. All of this activity happens in 3-5 seconds.

If a truck has a relatively clean record, inspection officers wave it on through. If records reveal any violations or a high CSA score, inspection officers will know to stop the vehicle. Law enforcement officials hope that this new smart technology will allow more efficient inspections. Before smart trailers, officers had to rely on their own intuition when determining who to stop. Smart roadside technology allows officers to be objective rather than subjective.

“This trailer system is nothing but a screening system,” Lt. Cook told Land Line. “It allows us to focus our attention more on the unsafe carriers while allowing the safe carriers to pass on by.”

Currently, the technology is in a trial phase. Officials are trying to iron out technical issues, including incorrect passwords and connectivity issues. At a cost of $200,000 per unit, the trailer was acquired via FMCSA grants. If the new mobile pilot proves to be successful, law enforcement will consider installing more permanent and stationary smart roadside connectivity units throughout the state.

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