Commentary | IT Matters

Electronic On-board Recorders: The Gateway to Intelligent Fleet Management

Tags: Logistics I.T., Trucking

Tom Flies is Chief Operating Officer, Cadec Global Inc., 603-668-1010

As the transportation industry continues to evolve, more fleets are reverting from commercial on-board computers back to running fleet management software on drivers’ personal devices. The main reason for this is cost, as companies generally view the hardware as free. Personal devices frequently break and need replacement, however, because they aren’t designed for the rugged environment of a truck cab.

As an alternative strategy, the concept of consolidating technology into the cab continues to gain industry momentum. This concept relies on a commercial on-board computer (OBC) or electronic on-board recorder (EOBR) that is installed in the truck. Designed to withstand rugged conditions and operate in extreme temperatures, the OBC or EOBR also as a mobile hotspot.

All the software a driver or fleet might need is integrated with the OBC or EOBR, either wirelessly or via a port, making it a centralized point of business intelligence. Critical information drivers need, such as directions and route changes, are relayed in real time to the truck cab via the OBC or EOBR, audibly, on screen, or both.

At the same time, the OBC or EOBR sends two types of information back to operations: data it automatically collects, such as vehicle location and speed, and data that drivers key in, such as delivery arrival times and other delivery details. Thanks to this ability to transmit real-time data, fleet managers never need to call drivers on their personal mobile phones.

Key characteristics of an EOBR acting as the command center in the truck include:

  • Enough horsepower to run all the applications a fleet requires, in terms of memory and processing speed.
  • Connectivity for multiple devices, such as handhelds, tablets, in-cab printers and trailer temperature-tracking monitors.
  • An M2M architecture, allowing devices to be managed and configured remotely and to trigger alerts to operations and customers.
  • Rugged enough to operate reliably even in extreme temperatures or other environmental conditions.
  • A communications platform that is always on and secure.

This command center concept is growing in popularity because it addresses fleet managers’ desire for mobility, device connectivity, and a single communications platform. By consolidating fleet-related technology into a single unit, while ensuring that critical fleet data remains secure and available, fleets can avoid personal devices in the cab and eliminate the need to add additional mobile processing power to supplement the EOBR.

Unlike personal mobile devices that can be lost, stolen, damaged, or turned off, the EOBR is a fixed asset that’s reliable and always on for use. Maintenance is simple because all units are standard; if a device is out for service, another can be easily swapped in during the repair. Another reason the cab-consolidation trend is gaining momentum is because consumer devices are less robust. They are also less secure. Organizations need the ability to enforce security policies at a device level and protect their intellectual property if that device is ever lost or stolen. The organization should own the device and maintain control of all business-related data at all times.

It’s for these reasons that today’s leading fleets are increasingly relying on EOBRs to manage every aspect of their operations.