By: Steve Vaughn, National Director of Field Operations, HELP Inc. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) compiles data in […]
State Fact Sheets
Frequently Asked Questions
HELP Inc. – Heavy-vehicle Electronic License Plate, or HELP – is a non-profit public/private partnership formed to improve highway safety and efficiency. Both HELP and its PrePass service can trace their origins to a multi-year truck safety demonstration program that began in the mid-1980s. The demonstration program was known as the Crescent Project, in which innovative state DOT directors and trucking executives sought a way to pre-screen and weigh qualified, safe commercial trucks at highway speeds, providing efficiencies to both the trucking industry and state enforcement agencies.
The Crescent Project involved the states of Arizona, California, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas and Washington, and the province of British Columbia. The results of the Crescent Project ultimately led to the creation of HELP Inc. and the launch of the PrePass service. Today, HELP Inc.’s PrePass e-screening and weigh station bypass, coupled with its PrePass Plus toll management system, represent not only North America’s largest truck safety pre-clearance service but also the nation’s largest vehicle-to infrastructure (v2i) program.
One of the hurdles that confronted participants at the very beginning of the Crescent Project was how to overcome an inherent distrust that existed between public agencies (operators of the infrastructure, such as departments of transportation) and industry (trucking companies and drivers). The public sector feared some truckers might abuse a bypass system, while truckers held deep-seated concerns that by voluntarily enrolling in and being qualified for the bypass program, they would be subject to greater scrutiny than their non-participating competitors.
Also, at the time the project was getting underway, nearly all of the participating states levied a weight-distance tax against truckers based on the miles traveled within those states and the tonnage of the freight being hauled. Companies participating in the program feared that they would be subject to a higher level of enforcement than their non-participating competitors, who would find it much easier to evade the taxes. Also, organizers wondered, how would such a system – dependent upon truckers voluntarily enrolling and allowing themselves to be put under a microscope – create and continue to maintain a balance between safety and efficiency?
The answer was to create an objective third-party entity – the non-profit 501(c)(3) HELP Inc., managed by a public/private Board of Directors and a professional staff – to provide the objectivity and strict adherence to standards of safe and efficient operation.
HELP’s primary mission is the improvement of truck safety throughout North America through policies that also promote efficiencies within the motor carrier industry. These policies are developed by a board of directors that includes an equal number of public officials and commercial trucking representatives. Working through its policy committees, the HELP Board reviews and makes decisions on authorizing new PrePass sites; ensuring that carrier data used to e-screen and render the bypass decision remains private and secure; ensuring that HELP’s programs and services maintain a true balance between safety and efficiency; deciding whether to invest in new technologies or services for state partners and motor carrier customers; and a host of other decisions that affect the safe operation of commercial vehicles throughout North America.
Any carrier can voluntarily enroll and agree to be pre-screened for bypass. However, only carriers with good safety records and all credentials current will be authorized to bypass PrePass-equipped weigh stations, ports of entry, scale facilities and agricultural interdiction sites.
The data rules overseen by the Board of Directors require HELP to utilize only the most current, most accurate data sets to electronically screen carriers and determine their fitness to bypass. As a result, HELP not only checks standard data uploaded by participating states to SAFER (carrier records maintained by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration), but goes well beyond that. HELP regularly purchases data from states and provinces as it becomes available to acquire carrier data that states do not upload, utilizing both electronic and manual processes, if necessary, to ensure that only the most current data goes into the bypass decision.
No. The data upon which HELP’s electronic technology bases its bypass decision is the carrier’s data and, once it is aggregated into the PrePass Credentialing Database, is subject to HELP’s data privacy rules. If a vehicle receives a red light and the driver is instructed to pull in for further action, the officer at the site can review the data on that vehicle/carrier to determine whether additional enforcement is required. HELP also does not time or date stamp bypasses or toll transactions, and all carrier PrePass transaction data is automatically purged after 90 days.
HELP is authorized and obligated to report carrier data to a state or federal enforcement agency when a vehicle/driver is the subject of a criminal investigation, when there is sufficient probable cause to believe a vehicle/driver is carrying drugs or other contraband, when a vehicle/driver is involved in a hit-and-run and other such instances. HELP’s Data Committee and Board of Directors continually review data privacy laws and rulings to ensure that its actions protect individual privacy while supporting critical enforcement actions.
HELP’s data privacy policies, along with federal and state privacy regulations, prevent the collection and dissemination by HELP of any driver’s Personally Identifiable Information (PII).
In most cases, HELP deploys PrePass at no cost to the states. Since 1993, HELP has invested more than $600 million in private capital to develop, maintain and continuously improve PrePass sites and provide the technology systems and customer service required to meet the needs of our large customer base of 33 states and over 562,000 trucks from more than 59,000 fleets. As of February 2018, there are over 306 PrePass-equipped sites, with additional sites in development.
This highly valued carrier service was implemented by HELP at the request of PrePass customers more than a decade ago. Our advanced fusion transponder allows carriers that wish to electronically pay tolls to do so at hundreds of toll plazas throughout the U.S. Customers receive one invoice for both tolls and bypass services through their HELP/PrePass account, and all toll reconciliation and dispute resolution is handled quickly and efficiently by our customer service division. In addition, PrePass Plus customers can access their toll transactions on a daily basis so that toll costs can be billed real-time to shippers. Any carrier can enroll in our PrePass Plus toll-only service, but must qualify through e-screening to receive bypass privileges.
Without exception, our customers tell us the biggest benefit is the time saved by being able to bypass scales and inspection facilities. Both federal government and academic studies peg the minimum cost of pulling into a weigh-station or scale at $8.68, and that’s just for static weighing or a credential check. In today’s operating environment just a few minutes out of operation can make the difference between getting home or spending mandated time off in a sleeper berth. Bypassing weigh stations also saves fuel, reduces wear and tear on the truck, and provides both environmental and congestion-mitigation benefits.