Log Mandate Could Push Late Adopters of Technology

May 21, 2013

By Oliver Patton

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Adding low-cost services to single-purpose electronic logs will give small carriers the edge they need to remain competitive.
Adding low-cost services to single-purpose electronic logs will give small carriers the edge they need to remain competitive.

The pending mandate for electronic logging could pave the way for more mobile productivity systems in smaller fleets, said Norm Ellis, vice president of sales and marketing for Qualcomm’s Omnitracs.

Ellis, on hand at an ALK Transportation Technology Summit in Princeton, N.J., last week, said in an interview that adding low-cost services to single-purpose electronic logs will give small carriers the edge they need to remain competitive.

The proposed logging mandate is in the works at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and should be published in November. When it is final, probably in 2015, it will require all trucks covered by the hours of service rules to use electronic logs.

While many carriers already have integrated electronic logging into their onboard management systems, some small carriers have resisted the devices, arguing that they cannot afford them. For these carriers, FMCSA is likely to require a low-cost, single-function logging device.

Ellis, whose company makes electronic logging systems among numerous other products, said the mandate will put all carriers on equal footing in terms of compliance with the hours of service rules.

If the mandate lowers a carrier’s productivity by making logs more accurate and transparent, then that loss must be offset.

“The answer to the dilemma is how do we put enough capability and services into a low-cost device that gives them some of the things they need to remain competitive,” he said.

Ellis suggested that simple fuel optimization or tax tracking systems could make a difference, as could joining a fuel-buying consortium.

“Someone will figure that out, and when they do that’s how you start to unpick that lock,” he said. “Otherwise, it’s too much of a hit.”

In his presentation to the ALK session, Ellis said the next step in technology is to integrate the many services now available into a seamless whole.

Carriers are looking to tie a driver’s trip plan into on-board and back-office navigation systems, so that the driver can get his route and stops by punching just one button, even as changes occur en route.

For expedited carriers, where the last mile accounts for 80% of failures to be on time, a reduction of even 1% of out-of-route miles easily pays the cost of the system, he said.

Longer term, he sees the possibility of carriers adopting a “bring-your-own-device” approach to technology. Drivers, for example, may use their own mobile phones in an integrated way with onboard systems.

“I think you’ll see more of that, but some carriers don’t want the device to leave the truck.”

It may be, though, that as costs come down and the power of the devices goes up this will be less of an issue, he added.

He said he can foresee two devices in the truck, one tethered for compliance activities such as hours of service, and another portable for other uses – all for less than, say, $1,000.


  1. 1. Dennis [ May 22, 2013 @ 04:35AM ]

    I believe if the US government demands that the small carriers place EOBR's into their trucks they (the US government) shall pay for them.

    They paid for the Mexican trucks: from May 2011 Transport Topics "The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will require all Mexican trucks entering the United States to be equipped with electronic onboard recorders — and will pay for them, a Department of Transportation official said Wednesday."

  2. 2. Grey Murray [ May 22, 2013 @ 04:38AM ]

    We currently hot seat our trucks, so a driver will possibly drive 3 trucks in a 6 day period. On the days that drivers are not driving, they will work in our distribution facility as an hourly employee. Are their systems out there to handle these two concerns, and is that what is meant by a portable system. I would appreciate any feedback or advice on how to solve this issue

  3. 3. Tim D. [ May 22, 2013 @ 08:03AM ]

    When the big carriers cry that electronic logs are desperately needed to "level the playing field" with me, the single truck carrier, I wonder how I will level the playing with them when it comes to the huge maintenance and fuel savings they receive from vendors. Or what about the high average rates they are able to negotiate because they have the ability to provide 100% of the logistics for a customer? Can I expect to see some kind of legislation that will level the playing field when it comes to rates? Oh that's right, I don't have enough money to buy that kind of legislation like they did with EOBRs.

  4. 4. Wayne Schooling, NTA [ May 22, 2013 @ 09:02AM ]

    This will be very interesting, as the facts show that about 1,000 inter-state carriers start up every month so far this year with just as many having their MC #'s being cancelled. That's a lot of EOBRs floating around..

    Just since April, there have been 2,096 I unit carriers cancelled.


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