This article originally appeared in Transport Topics.

With recent advances in mobile wireless technology, some mainstream transportation companies have adopted onboard computing systems integrating over-the-road operations with back-office processing and reporting.  This adoption has been hastened by recent changes in Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) rules.

Under previous rules, not all commercial trucks were subject to Hours of Service (HOS) tracking requirements. Now all professional (CDL) truck drivers and commercial motor carriers must keep an accurate Record of Duty Status and will soon be required to install an electronic logging device (ELD) that tracks a driver’s Record of Duty Status (RDS) and HOS electronically, rather than recording this information manually in a logbook.  With the ELD mandate, motor carriers have until 2017 to comply and fleets already using electronic logging technology have until 2019 to ensure compliance with the new specifications.

Compliance means that long-haul truck drivers will have to be prepared to present e-log information upon request by a law enforcement officer.  That’s where onboard mobile printers provide value and convenience.  Using a mobile computing device ‒ laptop, tablet or smartphone ‒ and mobile printer, drivers can quickly print a certified, standardized HOS report.  They can also print other documents that may be needed, including permits, bills of lading, delivery receipts, incident reports and regulatory forms.

Englander Transportation’s Onboard Technology

Englander Transportation, Inc. specializes in refrigerated transportation of freight from Virginia and North Carolina to the West Coast, where it picks up mixed produce loads for markets back East.  With two drivers aboard, each truck makes the coast-to-coast turn every 5 – 6 days. Recently the company replaced its manual logging and communications system with an automated onboard fleet management system to increase driver productivity, safety and morale.  They chose OmniTRACS™, an award-winning mobile information solution designed to achieve these objectives, while also improving mobile asset management and operational efficiency.

In implementing the system, Englander equipped its 22 truck cabs with laptop computers and location-based software enabling real-time, bidirectional communication between drivers in transit and Englander’s headquarters.  A Brother PocketJet® mobile printer is mounted in each cab so drivers can print full-page documents, anytime and anywhere.  The new system saves time and labor, automating the way drivers keep trip logs, HOS tracking, pre-trip checks, and printing of required documents en route.

Brother PocketJet full-page thermal printers are compact, lightweight and easily mountable in a truck cab’s limited space.  Print quality for text, graphics and photos is excellent, and with thermal technology, no inks, toners or ribbons are required ‒ the only consumable is Brother’s thermal paper.

Englander IT Director Gary Hudelson notes: “Outdated manual procedures were having a negative impact on driver safety, productivity and morale.  Across the transportation industry today, electronic devices and digital technology are being used to manage fleets and facilitate real-time information flow, regardless of geography.”

Englander CEO Carl Baumgarner adds:  “We determined that a modern communications system was needed to bring our fleet technology up-to-date.  Now our driving teams have the latest in-cab tools and technology to make their time on the road as safe, smooth and productive as possible.  The system has improved business performance as well ‒ we estimate seeing a return on our investment in the first year of operation.”

Other users of integrated fleet management technology have reported benefits such as decreased fuel costs, reduced downtime, and simpler regulatory compliance. Having a reliable printer on board also makes good business sense, easing driver stress and boosting efficiency in the highly regulated long-haul transportation sector.

About the Author
Brian Beans is transportation industry specialist at Brother Mobile Solutions, a wholly owned subsidiary of Brother International Corporation and premier provider of mobile printing solutions for the transportation and logistics industry and many other industries. For more information, visit www.brothermobilesolutions.com.

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