An owner-operator option for ELDs

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With the proliferation of smartphone logging apps and their developers positioning to become full ELDs as the mandate for electronic logs nationwide inches closer, it’s easy to forget about some of the e-logs that have been out there a long time. While we’re still a ways off from the mandate (Final Rule later this year is the latest projection, with compliance deadline years following that), I had an interesting chat on that subject with a couple people at the Continental booth yesterday ahead of MATS opening up, after the Continental Tire / General Tire event.

Continental VDO RoadlogContinental’s the company behind the VDO RoadLog self-contained e-log, compliant today under the AOBRD device standard, and, says James McCarthy, in business development with Continental, compliant tomorrow under the ELD standard, at least as far as we can project what the feds will do.

McCarthy recognizes owner-operators’ challenges in today’s market. “In the marketplace today, it’s a lot harder for an owner-operator to commit to this technology,” he says about his product. Nonetheless, since its introduction several years ago now, the owner-operator and small fleet owner is just who Continental’s been focused on with its e-log.

“We did approach the ‘hardest market’ first,” McCarthy adds, and there’s a reason for that. “We think it’s one of the most important,” given the amount of freight hauled on the backs of owner-operator trucks.

His pitch to owner-operators rests on the unique nature of the basic RoadLog device in a market saturated with Internet-connected devices that enable at least the potential of over-the-air communication of driver hours information: RoadLog’s basic version does not have that capability — operators receive notifications from it in-cab; a built-in printer is utilized during inspections. “If you’re handing a cell phone to someone” to check your logs, McCarthy notes, it’s good to keep in mind “you’re handing a very personal device to that patrolman.”

Continental Sales Manager Mike Kollar pointed this unique camera system out to me. You can see an example of the camera (not to scale, as it were: yes, those are the actual cameras’ size) positioned on the body of the model truck in the picture. Four cameras positioned in front, back and on both sides of the truck take wide-angle views to provide the driver in-cab a 360-degree display of the entire area around the truck. No more split-screen-type viewing, though drivers can toggle through to see individual-camera views for closer looks if need be. The tech is only available for straight trucks as yet, he says, but the software for articulated tractor-trailers is coming soon, with 7- or 10-inch in-cab displays. He cites a range of around $2,000-$3,500 per system for cost.Continental Sales Manager Mike Kollar pointed this unique camera system out to me. You can see an example of the camera (not to scale, as it were: yes, those are the actual cameras’ size) positioned on the body of the model truck in the picture. Four cameras positioned in front, back and on both sides of the truck take wide-angle views to provide the driver in-cab a 360-degree display of the entire area around the truck. No more split-screen-type viewing, though drivers can toggle through to see individual-camera views for closer looks if need be. The tech is only available for straight trucks as yet, he says, but the software for articulated tractor-trailers is coming soon, with 7- or 10-inch in-cab displays. He cites a range of around $2,000-$3,500 per system for cost.

RoadLog in its basic form, however, is a single-function device — hours information for storage is pulled off with the driver key that then can be plugged into a laptop computer; updates to the software on the device run in the reverse direction, from operators’ computer back to the device. Essentially, McCarthy says, with the plug into the data port to the ECM, the RoadLog is reading the odometer and also utilizing GPS within the device for location.

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VDO is well-known for its gauges and other technology, in various and sundry OE trucks and autos. Given what’s above, and that there are no monthly fees associated with RoadLog’s usage (operators are all in well under $700 for initial cost)… For owner-operators anticipating a long future in the industry, if you end up having to choose an ELD, this one I imagine may appeal to many.

At once, though VDO has a few operator testimonials on its website, I’ve yet to personally meet an independent who has invested in one.

Anybody running the RoadLog today? Sound off…