Fast Forward

Max Kvidera | March 01, 2011

It appears that how costs are split between carriers and owner-operators also will vary a good bit.

May Trucking Co. charges owner-operators $18.75 a week for its EOBR system that company drivers and owner-operators use. That fee falls short of covering the actual expense of its system, says May’s Cindy Conklin.

FMCSA’s cost analysis included with the proposed EOBR mandate noted the very expensive ($1,000-plus per truck) devices as being the most commonly available at present. FMCSA’s own cost-benefit analysis of the market doubted that less expensive solutions now available could keep up with production demand for the hardware if the EOBR proposal was realized, even with a delayed compliance date.

The products with the biggest market penetration are produced by PeopleNet and Qualcomm. The basic PeopleNet system costs $900 to $1,100 per truck with a $45 monthly fee. Qualcomm’s systems generally cost more than $1,000.

Most EOBRs are too expensive, says Joel McGinley, president of uDrove, which today sells an electronic logging system that is not a full EOBR. “What’s going to happen is the price point’s going to come way down,” he says. uDrove is developing an EOBR product to be available this summer for less than $100.

Xata already offers its Turnpike RouteTracker program, which does satisfy FMCSA requirements for EOBRs, for $35 monthly in addition to cell data packages. The program enables logging functionality to be added to a PDA or smartphone and uses a small device placed on the dashboard, at no charge to the customer but for a $25 activation fee, to access and store data from the engine ECM.

“Drivers like it because it’s not intrusive,” says company Product Marketing Vice President Christian Schenk. “It’s an app — no different than running Facebook on your Blackberry or iPhone.”

Whatever the cost of the systems, McGinley says carriers and leased owner-operators likely will share the expense in various ways, such as the company paying the hardware expense and charging it back.

Prime Inc., which has been undergoing a fleetwide transition to electronic logs, handled its transition by bearing on the carrier side the large majority of any new charges, says Safety Director Don Lacy. He told Overdrive last year that owner-operators see only some initial cable-replacement charges switching to the new system as long as they’re equipped with one of the fleet’s units. “If they trade their old [Qualcomm] computer in, there’s some charge on that.”

“Schneider National provides the Qualcomm MCP 200 to owner-operators for free because it’s the right thing to do,” says Don Osterberg, vice president of safety at Schneider National. The fleet covers both initial costs and monthly fees.

David Owen, president of the National Association of Small Trucking Companies, calculates mandated EOBRs will cost the industry around $12 billion for installation and $500 million in annual fees and communication costs. “An EOBR is nothing more than an expensive device to ‘game’ CSA and allow a company to appear much safer than they truly are,” he says, arguing that strong compliance scores can deflect attention from crash data.

Avery Vise, Todd Dills and James Jaillet contributed to this report.

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