The Trucker — May 15-31, 2010
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EOBR shopping may be wise to do now, rather than waiting on federal mandate
Barb Kampbell

Editor’s note: this is part one of two in a series on EOBR manufacturers’ offerings. Part two will include Cadec and PeopleNet.<br /> <br /> become one of the most talked about issues in trucking so The Trucker decided to investigate just what was in the marketplace to choose from cur.. rently, and what plans companies are making for the future in light of more carriers being mandated to install EOBRs in trucks.<br /> <br /> Currently only the worst offenders are man.. dated to install EOBRs, but another rule is coming soon that could include all interstate trucks.<br /> <br /> The Trucker talked to was XATA. Eric Witty, business analyst for XATA walked us through the company’s offerings which include both a traditional EOBR that’s competitive with other leading manufacturers and one that is inexpensive and doesn’t offer any bells and whis.. tles other than that which registers drivers’ Hours of Service.<br /> <br /> “What we have is we purchased a company in the last year so now we have two product lines that we’ll be selling,” Witty began. “The one product, called XATANET, has the traditional on-board computer in the vehicle and you can pick what kind of display you want. You can pick a hand-held, you could use a fixed mount display, whatever you want to use. And then it has GPS and communications and a connection to the vehicle. So it’s tracking what the vehicle’s doing and also allowing the driver to interact with the display. And as it relates to HOS, then it’s tracking the drive time and the location of the vehicle automatically and the driver just has to interact with the system to tell it when he goes off-duty or goes into the sleeper berth, that kind of thing.<br /> <br /> “That data from the vehicle is then communicated to our website, so it’s a Web application on the host. So if you want to look at the driver’s logs on the system, you just have to log onto the site and once you get on there you can run all sorts of performance related reports.” <br /> <br /> XATA has more than one system and to begin the interview, Witty discussed the more costly, top-of-the-line EOBR product offered by the company.<br /> <br /> “The log is just one of many applications we offer so our system and others tend to be a little more costly because they are designed to do many things including wireless communications with the driver, GPS tracking, navigation, driver performance, vehicle performance, diagnostics — a number of things and so there’s a little more to it.” <br /> <br /> And then Witty told of another product, one that is very inexpensive and could be a good solution for carriers with mandates to install EOBRs when they don’t have much of a cash flow.<br /> <br /> “The other product line is XATA Turnpike,” he said. “The uniqueness of that product is [that] it’s very low cost; you have a small device that you connect to the vehicle that’s around $140. And then you talk to that device and use as a display a cell phone. People that buy that product sign a multi-year contract and they get the cell phone for free and then it takes about 10 minutes to install and you pay a recurring fee and that’s it.<br /> <br /> “So that product is a lot lower cost and for your owner-operators you could get into it for basically under a couple of hundred dollars and it still does logs, it does fuel tax, it does other basic stuff; it’s just not as rich of an application as the other product.” <br /> <br /> If a company is going to tout its product as usable for recording HOS, it must meet certain standards.<br /> <br /> “We are involved with the [Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration] and all the folks that have been in the industry discussing the regulations and that product, but it’s compliant with the current regulations and we will make it compliant with the new ones as well. Mileage is recorded with a small device in the truck, called route tracker. It has GPS and it connects to the vehicle and then the cell phone connects to that device via a BlueTooth.<br /> <br /> “Part of the reason XATA bought Turnpike is because of the low cost to get an on-board recorder placed in a vehicle. To get a traditional EOBR installed you’re talking, on the low end $1,000 to $1,400 a truck to do all you need. Mainly it’s because nobody in the past would ever buy a system just for logs, but now that — possibly in the future — they could be mandated to do it [that’s] where you’re seeing this Turnpike product and you’ll probably see more now that the mandate has happened. You’ll see more people try to come to the marketplace with low-end products because obviously if you’re told you have to do it you probably want to spend as little as possible for it.” <br /> <br /> XATA doesn’t just offer the low-end unit, it also offers a top-of-the-line EOBR-plus unit that has all of the bells and whistles any driver could possibly need on the truck.<br /> <br /> “The two product lines are different, obviously, and serve different purposes as far as the XATANET product, the one that was traditionally competing with the other folks; it’s fairly similar other than I think our difference is more flexibility in the hardware. A lot of them sell their own display and their own complete system where we have a computer that goes in the truck that you pretty much have to have but it’s a little more neutral in relation to the device you want to use as the display.<br /> <br /> “If you’re an over-the-road driver you might want a dash-mounted display that is fixed because you’re always in the truck and you’re not really doing a lot of deliveries. So they’ve got some choices there. It becomes a money thing at that point. You can have a low-end, low-cost display that’s not very elegant and if you want you can buy a larger color screen display that has USB and some other connectivity that you can do some other stuff with.” <br /> <br /> XATA understands that not every driver wants or needs all the bells and whistles.<br /> <br /> “The lower cost, lower feature solution we wouldn’t try to sell to the higher end user, but if you want to do some basic tracking and some very simple applications and not spend a lot of money to do it that’s exactly what that product line [Turnpike] is for and when the mandate happens the people that are going to Be forced to do it [install EOBRs], they’re not going to go out and shop, they’re going to say, what’s the minimum I have to spend to comply with this regulation, and we’re hoping it’s us.”<br /> <br /> A few carriers that use XATA’s products include Sysco Corp., U.S. Food Service and Pritchett Trucking Inc. <br /> <br /> The next company The Trucker interviewed was Qualcomm, where Chris Silver, manager for product marketing, told The Trucker about its offerings that would record drivers’ HOS.<br /> <br /> “We have implemented EOBRs and have been running that with our OmniTrac system originally,” she said. “OmniTrac has been out a little over 20 years. It’s all text oriented, macros, not a graphical view; we are really taking 20 year-old technology and enabling EOBRs on that system.<br /> <br /> “We evolved from that about four years ago to our MCP100 series and have just again introduced an MCP200 series.<br /> <br /> “When it comes to our newer systems we will have these two platforms moving forward because the 100 is really focused around productivity and cost management whereas the 200 has some incremental capabilities such as video and a lot of storage space and Internet tually helps our customers drive revenue.” <br /> <br /> As for which product would work best to keep HOS, she continued to explain what they offer.<br /> <br /> “The EOBR or HOS application is exactly the same on both. There’s a little bit of difference between the graphics, but each of the tabs on the actual applications are the same and what we really tried to do when we introduced HOS on the MCP100 is make it very user friendly,” Silver said. “So there are tabs at the top just like you’d have with a Web page. It’s all touch-screen so a driver can go to the different tabs. There’s a summary screen that shows a graphical view for the roadside inspection. There’s another screen where the drivers actually go in and validate and approve their logs.<br /> <br /> “As soon as the truck starts rolling it receives information through the engine where it starts logging driver on-duty time, and so it’s all automated,” she continued. “There are a couple of manual entries a driver might need to do — if they were in sleeper-berth if the truck isn’t rolling to indicate what their status is. And then at the end of the day the driver can go in and verify their logs, but when they try to make changes to their on-duty driving time they actually don’t have access to make that change. They can put a note in there so try to understand what it is and they can make provides a level of integrity for the carrier as well as the driver.” got what it needs for compliance.<br /> <br /> FMCSA,” Silver said. “We have one person who is completely dedicated to regulatory, Dave Kraft, and he actually is on the EOBR task force for [the American Trucking Associations] and spends a lot of time with the FMCSA.<br /> <br /> He is responsible for making sure that managers.<br /> <br /> “We believe, particularly in the EOBR space, there’s going to be lots of solutions that start at the very, very low end [cost] and are just very purpose driven to log hours or even in some cases we’ve seen what’s called driver assisted logs which is effectively going paper-FMCSA.<br /> <br /> “I think that generally that’s where the industry is going [to less expensive models] and we all think that with the pending legislation that’s coming down the pipe just the industry as a whole, we need to make it more affordable our perspective, we’re not really focused on the real low, low-end space, we’re really more focused on, yes, this legislation might drive people to purchase technology because they have to but hopefully they understand the return-oninvestment for all of the other things they can do with mobile communications.” Qualcomm units, according to Silver, go from $1,500 list price all the way up to the high two thousands for a fully loaded system with satellite.<br /> <br /> “Traditionally we’ve only had really high- with a lot of functionality,” Silver said. “With ting different price points for the marketplace.<br /> <br /> And generally speaking people really need to be able to afford this. So we know there’s going to be a lot of real low-end solutions that are targeted at just getting HOS but really in a lot of the research we’ve done it’s been kind of a catalyst for people adopting technology in general. And I agree that the people who are mandated, that just need to comply, are in a different category.<br /> <br /> “When we talk about price ranges, a lot of ours have to do with the functionality that’s available when we talk about our high-end system, that is fully loaded with three types of communication — it’s satellite, it’s ter- Internet). Effectively what we’re trying to do is enable the driver to have access to everything they would have access to at a terminal or at headquarters while they’re out on the road.<br /> <br /> “It is a fully capable computer system with graphics, video, everything.” Qualcomm doesn’t just service the largest companies.<br /> <br /> “We have lots of smaller companies, Silver said. “The average size of our customer is more in the hundreds than the thousands [of trucks]. trucks. We typically don’t target the owner-op- enable owner-operators with our technology.<br /> <br /> So we have a lot of owner-operators that are on air, but they are on air and utilize our product because they are driving for one of our customers.”