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With about three months until electronic logging devices are required in every commercial big rig, carriers and truck drivers have found that dozens of new companies have popped up to meet the technology demand.

More than 100 companies are promising electronic logging services to bus and truck drivers. Some electronic logs must be ordered wholesale from sales representatives; others can be picked up at a truck stop for under $100.

In mid-December, all trucks will have to be equipped with the logging devices, which will automatically track and report drivers' hours. This is a change from paper logs, which are easier to manipulate.

While the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulates electronic logging devices, most of the monitoring is up to the carriers and truck drivers. Some people in the trucking industry are afraid that some companies rushed into the device market, which could result in penalties due to malfunctions.

Many of these technology companies advertise their electronic logging device products as "FMCSA approved." But while the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reviews the products' user manuals and other documents to make sure they meet the federally mandated requirements, there is no review of their software before hitting the market.

Joe DeLorenzo, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration director of enforcement and compliance, said the government will work with the vendors to fix any problems that might arise.

"Most of the types of issues we might find would be software-related," DeLorenzo said.

Safety administration officials have recommended that all drivers carry paper logs inside their trucks in case their electronic logs malfunction. Last month, the federal government delayed until April 2018 the period in which drivers can be marked "out of service" because of electronic logging device violations, so both roadside inspectors and drivers will have more time to adjust to the changes.

Truck drivers and carriers will alert the government of any problems. If a violation occurs because of a software problem, the driver should report the problem on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website. A team of three or four administration employees will investigate the claim and ultimately determine whether the vendor needs to adjust its product, or whether it needs to be taken off the market.

Officials have said the process is similar to how problems in cars are reported -- consumers purchase the vehicle, drive it, and report any problems. Then the government investigates the problem and offers a corrective solution, such as a product recall.

So far, no companies have been moved to a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's list of revoked electronic logging devices, the ones no longer certified. One Arkansas federal administration official said last month that carriers should anticipate some companies being moved to that list.

San Francisco-based KeepTruckin is among the more experienced electronic logging device companies. Its leadership said the company has been in the electronic logging business for more than four years, offering a Web-based app to track a driver's hours.

John Verdon, the company's head of partnerships, said KeepTruckin has worked with about 600,000 truck drivers who've used the company's app to report hours, much in the same way an electronic logging device functions.

"[Customers] shouldn't be making a decision solely based on price," Verdon said. "Having a foundation within the hours of service space means we have a solution built for the specifications of the mandate."

At Maverick Transportation, headquartered in Fort Smith, all of its trucks' in-cab computer systems are from Omnitracs, a technology company focused on the transportation and logistics industry. Wayne Brown, Maverick's vice president for technology, said it made sense to use Omnitracs as its device vendor. But after some market research, he said he spotted some potholes.

"Technology fails," Brown said. "That's one of the concerns I have with a lot of these new entrants."

SundayMonday Business on 09/24/2017

Print Headline: Rule spawns electronic-log supply sector

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