Technology Now: Well Connected

Eighty percent of owner-operators surveyed say in-cab communication devices help improve their productivity, according to Overdrive‘s Owner-Operator Panel. While cell phones are the most popular form of in-cab communication, many owner-operators take advantage of other options as well, including two-way radios, mobile communication systems, CB radios and pagers.

More than 64 percent of owner-operators surveyed say in-cab communication helps them increase the number of loads they can haul. Making arrangements for loads from inside the cab reduces the amount of time owner-operators spend not driving while trying to identify their next load.

In-cab communication devices also enable truckers to call for directions, significantly reducing their out-of-route mileage. In fact, nearly 42 percent cite this as an advantage, while 33 percent say they see increases in the number of revenue of miles they travel. Marcine Bussey, an owner-operator from Syracuse, N.Y., says over the years he’s driven a lot of out-of-route miles to check in with his family and to call about loads.

“Cell phones make doing business and keeping in touch with family easier,” Bussey says. “I used to stop all the time and now it makes that unnecessary.”

Return on investment

Investing in in-cab communication devices resulted in lower overall operating costs, according to more than 35 percent of owner-operators surveyed. And there are non-financial benefits, as well. Nearly 75 percent of owner-operators say these devices have improved their lifestyle and working environment.

Improved relationships

Seventy percent say such devices foster a better relationship with family and friends, and more than 65 percent say they improved their relationship with their dispatcher or broker. Not surprisingly, more owner-operators in high-mileage applications say communication devices help their relationships with family and friends, since they spend more time away from home.

U.S. Xpress driver Chad Means uses his cell phone to stay in contact with his son, Aaron, 10, and daughter, Kaleigh, 12. When setting up cell phone service, he made sure his mobile number was a local call for his kids. “If they can’t get me by cell phone, they can e-mail and let me know what their problem is,” says Means, who uses e-mail from his cell phone provider and Qualcomm. He also calls the children from the road at least three times a week. “I’ve got the minutes, so I use them as much as possible.”

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Bussey also uses his cell phone to keep up with his family. “I use it almost all the time,” says the father of 11. Bussey, who has been driving for 44 years, says he never envisioned a time when he could make a phone call from inside his truck.

Owner-operator Fred Lapp uses his cell phone for more than just calls. He also uses it to log on to the Web and to find loads. For example, the Sarasota, Fla., leased owner-operator says he recently found a good load 40 miles away two minutes after it was posted.

Cell phones with Web capability have been nicknamed smart phones, but Lapp says the truckers who use them are the smart ones.

“Drivers have to look at total communications,” he says. “He who jumps on the load first wins. The Web phone lets you do it when you’re in the truck. Drivers have got to have them. It makes things so much easier.”l

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