Transponder vs Mobile Bypass Technology – Which one is right for you?

5 min read

Transponder-based bypass programs (like PrePass®, NORPASS etc.) have been used in the trucking industry for over 20 years. Before 2013, transponders were the only way to bypass scales, because no other weigh station bypass technology had been created. In July 2013, the FMCSA announced that Commercial Mobile Radio Services (CMRS) network devices (such as smartphones, or telematics devices) could be used as transponders for weigh station bypass services. This meant that bypasses could be provided on modern technology such as smartphones, or telematics devices (ELDs). Since then, the buzz about CMRS bypass has grown – and with this new technology option now available, many drivers and fleet managers are curious to learn a little bit more about the differences between the two technologies.

In order to help you choose the best weigh station bypass solution for yourself, or for your fleet we created this handy guide about the differences between transponder-based  and CMRS-based bypass.

Technological Differences

A transponder is a device that sticks onto the windshield of your truck(s), and grants drivers bypasses through RFID technology. RFID (Radio-frequency Identification) uses electromagnetic fields to automatically identify and track the transponder. RFID has been around since the 1970’s, and it’s the same technology that is used by retailers to track the sale od their merchandise and help prevent theft of RFID tagged items.

To provide bypasses at weigh stations by RFID, the bypass provider (PrePass®, for example) needs to set up a physical transponder-reader pole at each site. This infrastructure costs millions of dollars to build. Costs include putting up the required transponder-reader poles at each site, as well as their ongoing maintenance. This not only makes transponder bypass more expensive than CRMS but also means it takes a lot longer to get every single bypass site up and running –new sites takes longer, expanding the network coverage is a slow process.

CMRS (Commercial Mobile Radio Service) bypass technology uses GPS and cellular service to transform mobile devices into ‘smart transponders.’ This means that network devices such as smartphones, or telematics devices, can be used as transponders for weigh station bypass services. In addition, it means that bypass programs using CMRS can legally provide bypasses to drivers via their smartphone, tablet, or telematics devices (ELDs) such as Omnitracs or PeopleNet. Currently, there is only one existing CMRS-based bypass program – Drivewyze PreClear.

While transponders depend on ground-level infrastructure to grant bypasses, CMRS uses geofencing. Geofencing takes advantage of GPS technology to create a virtual geographic boundary that enables software to trigger a response when a mobile device enters or leaves an area. Drivewyze has set up geofences around every weigh station in the USA. Because geofencing is done on a computer, it takes very little time to set up a geofence. This means that when a new weigh station needs to be added to a CMRS-based bypass program, it can be set up within minutes. This allows companies like Drivewyze to grow and expand into multiple bypass sites in a fraction of the time that it would take a transponder-based company to do the same. Additionally, geofences allow Drivewyze to provide bypasses at mobile/temporary inspection sites, because there is no physical infrastructure or additional costs required to set them up.

Driver Experience

When using transponder-based bypass, drivers must be in the right-hand lane and must drive under the transponder-reader pole, which is located about a mile away from the station.  Transponders will let a driver know if they received a bypass both by and audible signal, and by showing either a small green light (bypass the station), or a small red light (if the driver must pull in). The last driving command (bypass or pull-in) will continue to be shown for 15 minutes after passing the station, by a flashing red or green light.

When using CMRS-based bypass, drivers can receive bypasses from any lane. Remember, CMRS-based bypass like Drivewyze doesn’t require a transponder reader to function – because it uses geofences instead. This means drivers won’t need to make any sudden lane changes. Two miles away from the station, the driver will receive a notification that lets them know there’s a weigh station coming up, and another notification when the weigh station is one mile away. This gives the driver plenty of time to safely move into the right-hand lane if necessary, and reduces the risk of a driver accidently driving past a scale. If the driver receives a bypass, their mobile (or telematics/ELD) device will show a large green ‘Bypass’ sign on the screen and play an audible signal. If the driver has to pull-in, Drivewyze will play a different audible signal, and show a screen that says ‘Pull-in Unless Closed’ – which means pull in if the station is open or keep driving if the station is closed. If a driver wants to see their last driving command they can simply click on a recall button which brings up the date and time of the driving instruction that was issued to the driver.

WIM Integration

A common question that’s comes up is whether CMRS technology can integrate with WIM (weigh in motion) scales. While there were challenges many years ago in being able to integrate CMRS systems and WIM scales, improvements in both cellular data network speeds and GPS client software have overcome these roadblocks. Today, both types of bypass technologies can successfully integrate with WIM scales, and provide bypasses at sites that use WIM. To date, Drivewyze has successfully integrated with WIM scales at over 100 locations throughout the United States.

Inventory Requirements

When using transponder-based bypass, most fleets must manage a significant inventory of devices. Considering lost or stolen transponders cost up to $100 each to replace, and often fleets must make routine transponder purchases, maintaining an inventory can become quite expensive. Additionally, managing these devices take takes up valuable employee time.

Because CMRS bypass is integrated into mobile and telematics devices, there is no additional hardware to manage. This means that fleets using CMRS bypass, like Drivewyze, don’t need to worry about inventory management, lost/stolen transponders, or any additional costs. There’s no additional inventory required, fleets can add trucks to the program or take trucks out as needed. CMRS-based bypass can help justify the cost of your ELD purchase, since it functions on existing hardware.

 Reporting and Business Intelligence for Fleets

Transponders are limited in terms of the data they are able to collect., Most transponder based bypass services will provide basic reporting to fleets, such as the number of bypasses received each month.

CMRS technology can provide fleets with sophisticated, GPS based reporting. This means you’ll get more data than just the number of bypasses received. For example, Drivewyze reporting can show you how much driver time is being wasted at all weigh stations and inspection sites across the country, not just Drivewyze sites. The data shows you where your trucks are being pulled in the most, and for exactly how long. If you’re interested in seeing a personalized report for your fleet, click here.

Choosing the Right Bypass Technology for Your Fleet

As you can see, there are many things to consider when selecting a bypass service for yourself, or for your fleet. The type of technology (and what value it can provide) is certainly an important criterion to consider. Additionally, the service coverage (participating states and sites) as well as customer service are two more important considerations. So, when you’re trying to decide which service is best for you or your fleet, do your homework – call the bypass services you’re interested in, ask questions, ask for a free trial, and get driver feedback where applicable.

If you’re looking for a fleet-wide bypass solution, and would like to learn more about Drivewyze and how it works, click here –  or see what our customers have to say about the service.

If you’re a driver who’s interested in trying Drivewyze for free for 30 days, click here for more information.

PrePass® is a registered trademark of HELP Inc. in the United States and/or other countries. All company, product and service names used in this document are for identification purposes only. Use of these names, trademarks and brands does not imply endorsement.

Next Steps

Drivewyze is a leader in connected truck services. We have helped thousands of fleets improve fleet efficiency and safety outcomes towards our vision of zero crashes and zero fatalities.

  1. Drivewyze PreClear – Request a demo of the largest weigh station bypass service with 900 sites in 47 states and provinces.
  2. Drivewyze Free – Sign up for Drivewyze Free, the first comprehensive and free safety solution using proactive alerts to improve fleet safety. Available for free for fleets and owner-operators.
  3. Drivewyze Safety+ – Premium safety solution for fleets that comes with custom zone alerts, severe weather alerts and a lot more. Request a demo or a free trial today!
  4. Drivewyze Mobile Apps – Owner-operators can sign up for a free 30-day trial for the Drivewyze PreClear app on iOS and Android and start receiving bypasses in 900 sites across 47 states and provinces.
  5. Careers and Partnerships – If you’re interested in joining the team that is building the future of connect trucking, please see our Careers page and submit partnership inquiries here.

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