January 19, 2018 2:30 PM, EST

Equipment Cybersecurity Awareness

When it comes to cybersecurity, what comes immediately to mind? Chances are it’s corporate denial-of-service attacks, credit card information theft, financial hacking, perhaps even a ransomware incident involving hospital information systems. Unfortunately, trucking also is at increasing risk of cybersecurity threats, and the risk is only going to grow as automated and other advanced technologies become commonplace in the industry.


Advanced computing and connectivity are critical components of commercial vehicle safety systems, powertrain controls and operating communications. The trucking industry increasingly relies on these technologies for improved operations, company growth and to meet federally mandated regulations. While these technologies can improve emergency service, traffic congestion and help support the growing demand for transportation of freight, concern exists about potential disruption from cyberattacks.

Cyberthreats to trucking vary. Some involve compro- mises to back-office financial and dispatch business systems. Others involve digital assaults on the vehicle itself. As over-the-air programming of vehicle electronic control modules (ECMs) becomes widespread, entire fleets could be shut down with a wireless flash update, for example, if effective security protections are not in place.

Is trucking prepared for the cybersecurity challenge? The answer is troubling, said TMC Future Truck Committee Chairman Bill Brown, who also is manager of fleet telematics for Southeastern Freight Lines. “If a timer-activated malware hits a vehicle and if a USB exchange is used (i.e. a USB drive), the malware can easily be transferred from one vehicle to another, can go undetected and could shut countless vehicles down all at the same point in time via the onboard vehicle databus that is now opened for bidirectional communication.”

American Trucking Associations’ Technology & Maintenance Council began to address concerns over cybersecurity in 2015 with an informational webinar series on the benefits and possible risks associated with remote programming of vehicle ECMs. Since 2016, TMC and its members have been working with ATA and other industry groups to identify and address fleet cybersecurity concerns through the council’s Cybersecurity Issues Task Force.

The group, led by Mark Zachos, president of DG Technologies, is focusing on fleet business and operations for security measures. It is charged with developing TMC Recommended Practices that cover cybersecurity awareness, prevention and mitigation for commercial on-road vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds.

Zachos discusses cybersecurity issues as they pertain to the trucking industry. (Technology & Maintenance Council)

“One of the first missions the task force tackled was developing a cyberintrusion challenge track as part of the TMCSuperTech competition,” Zachos said. “This was successfully piloted at TMC’s 2017 Fall Meeting and National Technician Skills Competition. The station challenged technicians in practical approaches to identify and remedy vehicle cybersecurity faults that they might encounter on the shop floor, such as vehicle tampering or unauthorized access to the vehicle databus.”

Other task force goals include:

1. Combining existing research with TMC activity (outreach to academia, government and other associations).

2. Developing guidelines for fleets to create their own cybersecurity program for implementing internal organizational support to assess and respond to cybersecurity issues. For example:

• Contract considerations — When buying/using a software package, what should be included in the contract regarding cybersecurity?

• Insurance considerations — What kind of insurance and how much should be included in insurance policies for business interruption from a cybersecurity incident?

3. Standardizing over-the-air ECM programming through specific protocols that allow fail-safe options and secure messaging.

4. Working with groups such as SAE International on strengthening related standards by fleet user influence (such as the SAE J1939 Cybersecurity Task Force).

5. Serving as a steering committee to help direct ATA’s new Fleet CyWatch program, with help from FBI and Department of Homeland Security liaisons.

Fleet CyWatch, a motor carrier-based program launching in January, will identify emerging cyberthreats and help guard against malicious actions of cybercriminals. The program will assist fleet members in reporting information about trucking-related internet crimes and cyberattacks, and disseminating information to fleets about cyberthreats that may impact their operations.

Fleet CyWatch will serve to reduce the number of internet crimes involving the trucking industry through cybersecurity awareness, prevention and mitigation. It will connect industry, federal enforcement, associations and trade groups involved in cybersecurity to protect U.S. road transport safety from cyberthreats.

As a motor carrier belonging to ATA or its councils, using Fleet CyWatch is recommended for reporting all types of internet crimes related to disrupting fleet operations. “Reports will be communicated with appropriate federal cyberauthorities to be handled by jurisdiction, type of cybercrime and commercial/public impact,” said Ross Froat, ATA’s director of engineering and information technology. “After protecting fleet identity, reports are communicated with intelligence sharing-and-analysis agencies, and the fleet community registered to Fleet CyWatch. Responding alerts through Fleet CyWatch will address cybersecurity training and education, cyberthreat trends and patterns, and best practices development. Relative and developing standards will be communicated also.”

The program also seeks to improve public awareness of industry and government efforts to prevent potential terrorist acts using commercial vehicles as instruments by way of cyberattack.

In addition, Fleet CyWatch will:

• Facilitate information sharing among members regarding cyberthreats, countermeasures and best practices;

• Forward internet crime complaints to appropriate authorities;

• Coordinate with ATA’s TMC Cybersecurity Issues Task Force, the Auto-ISAC, and other cybersecurity organizations;

• Utilize ATA’s Transportation Security Council Incident Response Notification System;

• Provide cybersecurity training and education;

• Survey and report cybersecurity threats, countermeasures and best practices.

In May 2000, the FBI established the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) as a center to receive complaints of internet crime. “In 2016, the IC3 received nearly 300,000 complaints in monitoring trending scams with reported losses in excess of $1.3 billion,” Froat noted.

The safety and security of on-road commercial vehicles is a priority for ATA. Industry cooperation undoubtedly will be key to shoring up cybersecurity vulnerabilities, but constant vigilance against threats clearly will be a critical mission for trucking’s foreseeable future.

For more information on ATA’s Fleet CyWatch, contact Froat at (703) 838-7980. For more information on TMC’s ­Cybersecurity Issues Task Force, contact TMC at (703) 838-1763 or visit

Robert Braswell is executive director of ATA’s Technology & Maintenance Council. He has served the council in a variety of roles since 1992.