Janurary 5, 2004
Software Firms Rush to Supply Compliance-Monitoring Tools
By Tiffany Wlazlowski, Senior Reporter
As motor carriers began to implement new federal driver workday rules that took effect Jan. 4, software companies were rushing to sell products that help trucking firms monitor their costs and compliance.
In April, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration unveiled the new rules to allow a shorter overall workday but increasing the daily time behind the wheel by one hour.
While that gave the industry nine months to prepare, interest began to soar among carriers and drivers in recent months as the deadline approached for new hours-of-service rules.
By last month, technology firms including Terion Inc., At Road Inc., Rair Technologies, Instructional Technologies Inc., Integrated Decision Support Corp., PeopleNet Communications, Qualcomm and McLeod Software Corp. were heavily marketing technology options ranging from educating drivers to helping avoid dock delays and driving violations.
"There’s a big push (for this type of software) because of the fear that HOS could have a negative impact on utilization," Dave Harris, vice president of sales for Integrated, said in an interview. "We saw a big push of people trying to market solutions to that."
Truckload carriers in particular have warned that their productivity could drop by 4% to 20% in the first months of 2004 as they learn to operate under the new system, pushing up operating costs that would force them to raise rates.
Fleet executives have complained the rules would cut the number of miles a driver could cover, because they trim the total daily time a driver can be on duty to 14 consecutive hours from 15.
Breaks and loading delays now must be included in that on-duty time, they say.
Henry Goldberg, president and chief executive officer of Rair Technologies, told Transport Topics that "demand is increasing" for software that helps fleet managers anticipate changes that the rules will cause. "Nobody wants to deal with this; they have other things to do," Goldberg said.
He said Rair had compared thousands of customer logs under the old rules with the new rules, to pre-emptively show customers whether they would be in compliance once the new rules took effect.
The result, he said, was that fleets would face "a tremendous increase in the number of 14 hour violations."
With such software, he said, fleet managers "know if a driver has driving violations and they are going to be able to contact him and tell him how he is exceeding the laws."
With fleets expressing concern about dock delays, some companies are revamping their systems that track trailers and monitor load times and detention rates.
Terion, for example, said it had enhanced its FleetView® software that identifies idle trailers and optimizes trailer pools, so that carriers could maximize utilization.
With an hours-of-service option, Terion said, FleetView would also generate reports on trailer load and unload status from a cargo sensor.
After displaying the amount of time a trailer is being held, Terion said, the software would summarize the data and send a report to the carrier which could use it to address shipper delays and the time drivers spend at the dock.
Truckload carrier J.B. Hunt said Dec. 19 it had equipped 20,000 dry van trailers with Terion cargo sensing and equipment tracking technology to address the challenges of HOS.
Similarly, At Road said it had upgraded its software with a driver-log service that would reduce HOS violations.
At Road said its system provided real-time reports for drivers that include hours worked, hours spent driving, hours available and violation information.
Dave Harris, vice president of sales for Integrated, said it also used real-time mobile communication to notify carriers about truck activity.
By using real-time communication, Harris said, carriers could customize their reports and better use equipment by "making sure utilization is built into the order and not afterward."
Chris Wolfe, president of Qualcomm Wireless Business Solutions, said users of the company’s FleetAdvisor product would receive an automatic update on Jan. 4.
The system also was set to be enhanced to give carriers the ability to record the time drivers spend waiting for loads and break times.
Wolfe said, new hours rules ultimately could drive demand for the kind of electronic driver logs Qualcomm developed for truckload carrier Werner Enterprises.
Although the new rules do not mandate electronic recordkeeping, Wolfe said, more carriers would "review their options" for effectively ensuring HOS compliance.
Ron Konezny, chief operations officer at PeopleNet Communications, projected that 20% of its 700 fleet customers would have adopted automated driver logs by the end of 2003.
Bruce Weiss, executive vice president of Instructional Technologies Inc., said that driver training company was taking a different approach to helping fleets comply with HOS.
Through its computer-based, interactive training program TREAD-1, clients including Landstar Systems Inc., Celadon Croup Inc. and P.A.M. Transport Inc. can train drivers in the HOS minutiae using actual driving scenarios, he said.
Weiss also said that unlike most software systems, the TREAD-1 curriculum could easily be updated as the FMCSA modifies and interprets the new rules.
"The laws right now are going to be changed," Weiss said. "FMCSA is not finished with this. These rules are going to change and will be redesigned. Any training on HOS has to be quickly modifiable so that with any new interpretation clients will have those changes."
To access the media archive, click here.