NMFTA Input Helps Develop Solid TMC Recommendation for Next-Generation Tractor/Trailer Electrical Interface

NMFTA - February 1, 2024

With critical input from the Enterprise and Heavy Vehicle Cybersecurity (EHVC) team at the National Motor Freight Traffic Association, Inc., the Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC) has just issued a position paper that recommends updated criteria for the next-generation tractor/trailer electrical interface.

The existing tractor/trailer electrical interface is the SAE J560, which has been the industry’s standard means of connectivity for more than 60 years. But the low bandwidth and relatively low conductor count of the J560 connector does not allow it to integrate with new technologies to enhance safety, efficiency, and durability. That has led TMC’s S.1 Electrical Study Group and its Next Generation Tractor/Trailer Electrical Interface Task Force to produce a position paper that lays out the recommended technical characteristics of the next such electrical interface.

The goal is an interface that:

  • Minimizes the burden on fleets and owner/operators.
  • Allows for the most successful industry adoption.
  • Avoids unnecessary business disruption.
  • Provides for necessary expansions to accommodate future truck/trailer functionality.

NMFTA’s cybersecurity team played a valuable role in the task force’s work and was able to ensure that critical input was included in the report. Most notably:

In the area of power line communication, J2497 trailer receivers are susceptible to remote RF-induced signals (Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency Advisory ICSA-22-063-01); therefore, 1) for the protection of older trailer equipment against J2497 attacks, new tractor equipment needs to have at least one attack mitigation and 2) diagnostic functions (which have higher risk in cybersecurity considerations) should no longer occur over J2497 on new trailers which are now expected to have CAN and/or Ethernet databus options.

“We suggested those considerations on security and advocated for them throughout the year or so of discussions,” said Ben Gardiner, senior cybersecurity research engineer for NMFTA. “This was voted on at a TMC meeting and the majority vote was in favor of this version, which deprecated J2497 diagnostics and adds security requirements.”

The NMFTA team also continued participating in the task force by presenting an interface proposal with a security architecture in mind and offering considerations for the development of a fleet survey.

“It’s an important call to action that the industry can respond to,” Gardiner said. “And the cybersecurity team at NMFTA is honoured to have had the opportunity to contribute to this work.”

High-level technical criteria for the next-generation tractor/trailer electrical interface, as determined by the task force, include:

  • SAE J560 compatibility, assuming the pins related to SAE J560 backward compatibility will remain 12 volt.
  • A minimum of two additional power pins, compared to the J560, one of which would be dedicated for 24-volt functionality.
  • One CAN network dedicated for ISO-11992 compliant operation for trailer braking and safety systems.
  • One CAN FD “capable” network for other CAN communications.
  • Two Ethernet connections capable of a minimum 1.0Gb/s speed.

According to the report, “TMC’s S.1 Electrical Study Group will continue its work to evaluate multiple proposed solutions to the development of a common NextGen Interface, some of which are conceptual and some of which exist in the current market or in prototype phase. TMC notes that most, if not all of the proposals identified to date meet all the technical criteria identified in this paper.”

TMC has recently published a fleet survey to solicit feedback and prioritization on various aspects of the proposals – most notably: the relative importance of cybersecurity overall and in this 2024-3 position paper specifically. We encourage all fleets who received the TMC’s “NextGen Tractor/Trailer Connector” Official Survey to respond no later than April 15, 2024, according to their priorities.

To learn more about NMFTA and its cybersecurity efforts, visit www.nmfta.org/cybersecurity.


The National Motor Freight Traffic Association promotes, advances, and improves the welfare and interests of the motor carrier industry and less than truckload carriers operating in commerce, both domestically and/or internationally.