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EOBR adoption projected to heat up; new solutions coming

Providers of electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs) are expecting the trucking industry to accelerate its adoption of the technology, thanks to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s proposed rulemaking announced yesterday, mandating the devices for some carriers and for proposing incentives for others to voluntarily adopt them

Providers of electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs) are expecting the trucking industry to accelerate its adoption of the technology, thanks to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s proposed rulemaking announced January 11, to mandate the devices for some carriers propose incentives for others to voluntarily adopt them.

Read FMCSA wants on-board recorders for worst HOS violators

The announcement of the proposed rule sparked a surge in trucking companies inquiring about EOBRs, according to a PeopleNet executive.

“[EOBR adoption] will dramatically increase before [the rule] goes in effect for people wanting to prepare for the rule,” Brian McLaughlin, vp of marketing for PeopleNet told FleetOwner. “Fleet owners in general know an EOBR is a good thing. The vast majority of the fleets are run by good people who obey the law and want to do what’s right but have concerns of whether the data is going to be utilized in a bad way. They had concerns about is it going to work when its supposed to…You’ll see carriers that want to do right but have been holding out adopt EOBRs because [those concerns have been addressed].”

As a result, McLaughlin predicts there will be significant penetration of EOBR technology in the trucking industry.

“We’re already seeing accelerated adoption of our technology in the marketplace,” Bob Stern, @Road senior public relations manager told FleetOwner. “Last year we had record bookings. The level of education and awareness of the technology is helping to accelerating adoption.”

“I don’t expect any tremendous surge, but just the talk about [EOBRs] has led people to investigate these types of systems and the operational benefits they provide to a trucking organization,” John Lewis, president & CEO of GeoLogic told FleetOwner. “That in itself would compel people to adopt it to improve their fleet performance. That will have far greater [effect on sales] than [carriers] that might be required to adopt these systems.”

PeopleNet, GeoLogic and @Road said the final rule is not likely to impact their existing customers significantly.

On the technology front, the proposed rule does create the potential for motor carriers to comply with the rule using GPS-based technology as an alternative to more conventional solutions that pull distance information off an engine control module (ECM).

This aspect of the rule is particularly exciting for @Road, which offers GeoManager, a GPS-based solution that offers HOS capabilities optionally.

“GPS capabilities are critical for lots of different things to manage a fleet better,” Rob Elmore, @Road manager of product marketing told FleetOwner. “It’s important that FMCSA has allowed us to do that to meet that requirement. They’re getting more than hours-of-service because location is critical. It’s a more expansive solution.”

But Peoplenet and GeoLogic said there could be technical hurdles ahead for GPS-based solutions to achieve the level of accuracy when recording tdistance traveled.

“From a providers’ perspective that’s a big change,” GeoLogic’s Lewis said. The rule allows motor carriers to comply using “a GPS-only system versus a system that is attached and synchronized with the truck.” However, it will be difficult to create a GPS-based solution meeting FMCSA’s requirement that odometer readings be within a 1% margin of error, he said.

“The whole issue around synchronization of the vehicle has changed,” Peoplenet’s McLaughlin said. “You can now use a cell phone as an EOBR. I think what’s going to happen is that it seems like a neat solution at first blush, but the industry will see there’s some reliability issue and learning curves involved.”

Weighing in on the issue, Qualcomm’s vp & gm of global transportation and logistics for Qualcomm Wireless Business Solutions added: “We are encouraged to see that the proposed rule includes performance standards for EOBRs so that a variety of technologies could be used to meet the requirements, as this gives carriers more flexibility in complying with the federal hours-of-service regulations.”

To comment on this article write to Terrence Nguyen at [email protected]

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