Signs showing an integrated North America have begun showing up on U.S. Interstate highways for NORPASS, a new electronic system that allows participating truckers in Canada and the U.S. to by-pass roadside weigh stations through the use of a transponder mounted on the windshield.
The NORPASS website describes the organization as “a partnership of state and provincial agencies and trucking industry representatives who are committed to promoting safe and efficient trucking throughout North America.”
Truckers that register to participate in NORPASS receive a small transponder that signals to a computer in participating weigh stations.
As the participating truck approaches the NORPASS weigh station, a roadside reader detects the transponder and a computer in the weigh station checks the truck’s credentials.
If the truck is certified, the NORPASS transponder signals a green light, allowing the driver to bypass the station.
If a problem is detected, a red light flashing on the transponder indicates a need for the truck to stop and be checked.
Participating NORPASS truckers are charged $45 to purchase a windshield transponder directly from NORPASS.
Melanie Coon, a spokesperson for the Washington Department of Transportation, or WaDOT, told WND the purpose of the system is to contribute to the state’s efforts to introduce “automated intelligence systems to assist trucks and people in crossing the U.S.-Canadian border more efficiently.”
Along with Washington, states participating in NORPASS include Alaska, Oregon, Idaho, South Dakota, New York, Connecticut, Kentucky and North Carolina.
Two Canadian provinces, British Columbia and Quebec, are NORPASS participants.
A map on the NORPASS website indicates NORPASS weigh station by-passing is also compatible with the transponders issued by BestPass, another U.S.-Canadian truck transponder system.
While the NORPASS road sign and corporate emblem clearly portray North America – including Canada, the United States and Mexico – NORPASS currently has no Mexican states participating.
Coon could not tell WND why no Mexican states were included in the program.
Aves Thompson, the executive director of the Alaska Trucking Association, serves as the president of NORPASS.
In a telephone interview with WND, Thompson could not think of any reason why Mexican states were not included in the program, other than that NORPASS was currently focusing on recruiting new participants in U.S. states and Canadian provinces contiguous to current NORPASS members.
Thompson said NORPASS was a private, not-for-profit organization that is not a part of any state or federal government organization.
“The goal of NORPASS is to provide for safe, legal and efficient transport of freight,” Thompson said. “Electronic by-pass in systems like NORPASS allow trucks to by-pass weigh stations more quickly and allow the law enforcement personnel to focus on the bad actors.
“Law enforcement agencies across the U.S. appreciate any electronic screening that separates out safe and legal trucks from trucks that need more attention,” he stressed.
“We are doing outreach to other states and provinces that are upgrading their capabilities to conduct electronic screening of vehicles,” Anne Ford, the WaDOT commercial vehicles services administrator, told WND.
“Each state and province has their own electronic screening system,” Ford said. “As the truck approaches the weigh station in Washington state, the transponder signal is read against the WaDOT database to check the information related to the vehicle. The trucks are supposed to be in the right lane when they approach a weigh station. In the right lane WaDOT has ‘weigh in-motion’ scales built in the roadway that can electronically weigh the vehicle at freeway speeds.”
Ford added that at the national level, “there is a database called SAFER that is part of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that some states use to first gather the vehicle data. From SAFER, the data is then sent out to other NORPASS participating states.”
SAFER, which stands for “Safety and Fitness Electronic Records,” collects a wide range of data on commercial vehicles, including inspection reports, crash reports and enforcement actions.
WaDOT sends data for a Washington state vehicle registered with a transponder in NORPASS to the SAFER system in Washington, D.C. From the nation’s capital, the vehicle data is then sent to other states for electronic screening, whether or not they are NORPASS participating members, Ford explained to WND.
The WaDOT website indicates that as of April 1, the Commercial Vehicle Information Systems and Networks, or CVISN, program was providing electronic screening at 11 weigh stations in Washington state to 8,647 trucking companies with 61,373 trucks equipped with transponders.
The NORPASS website includes downloads of NORPASS brochures in both French and Spanish.
WaDOT is listed on the NORPASS website as the system’s Western Service Center.