Qualcomm's Bauckman says legislators must be educated on technology that can help drivers without increasing driving distractions

Jan. 1, 2010
THE American Trucking Associations' (ATA) Executive Committee voted in August 2009 to support a bill introduced by Sen Charles E Schumer (D-NY) to ban

THE American Trucking Associations' (ATA) Executive Committee voted in August 2009 to support a bill introduced by Sen Charles E Schumer (D-NY) to ban texting by all drivers, but Qualcomm's Mark Bauckman is concerned that the anti-technology movement might go too far.

“The big concern now is to not whitewash everything that's electronic in the vehicle, so that drivers can't interface with any electronic device while the vehicle is in motion,” he said in his “Focus Inside the Cab: Distracted Driving, Electronic Log Audits” presentation at the 2009 NTTC Fall Safety Meeting. “We have people who just don't understand the environment and technology. From a vendor standpoint, we have to carry the message to Washington that we're doing good things, to help people understand.”

Bauckman said many companies have technology with built-in safeguards. For instance, Qualcomm has tools that provide motion-enhanced productivity and increased safety while in motion, including: Providing access to applications that would not distract drivers (the driver can punch a button to hear the message, but can't type anything); prioritization of the Navigation application; displaying of the DOT clock in every screen; driver interacting with system through remote control device (RCD) for messaging; and team drivers logged in will have access to all applications except games while in motion.

The RCD is mounted on the dash and provides drivers access to spoken messages and the ability to safely interact with navigation features while in-motion. Its small size allows for easy mounting to the vehicle dash, and it has a backlight keypad with navigation and other critical function keys.

“If you're sitting there waiting for the government to legislate an answer that's going to solve the problem, don't,” he said. ”We have to start chipping away at it. I think this industry is at the forefront on a lot of things related to safety. I'm not saying things are done 100% right. The big challenge we see in our business is people who don't understand and are whitewashing everything.”

Bauckman said distraction happens when a driver is slow to recognize a potential hazard because something inside or outside the vehicle draws his attention away from the road.

“There are many potential sources of distraction,” he said. “You cannot completely eliminate distraction. The key is to minimize the risk from distraction. How do you manage it and realize what is happening?”

He said some onboard technologies with distraction potential include: cell phones (texting, simple talking); CB radios; AM/FM/satellite radios; TV/video; navigation; mobile communications; laptop computers; and onboard safety systems (collision avoidance, lane departure, roll stability).

“All these systems that are focused on improving safety certainly contribute to the distraction problem,” he said.

What are the distraction consequences? He said estimates of crashes due to driver distraction range from 10%-30%. Social and economic costs for these crashes are an estimated $40 billion annually.

Bauckman said distracted drivers are three times more likely to be involved in crashes than attentive drivers, and they are more likely to be seriously injured or killed. Distracted drivers more likely to be involved in single-vehicle or rear-end crashes.

“One of the big challenges is that these accidents tend to be more severe,” he said.

This has resulted in legislative attention: 21 states now have some sort of ban against text driving.

“But even if it's enforceable, there's no teeth to it — fines are inconsequential,” he said. “But legislators are still going after it.”

Bauckman said those who are interested in the topic should view portions of the US DOT Distracted Driving Summit at www.rita.dot.gov/distracted_driving_summit/.

FMCSA policy

On November 19, 2008, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) rescinded and restated its existing 1997 policy on GPS and technology to this: If a company uses GPS, FMCSA has the authority to request six months of electronic records, and use them during the normal course of an investigation. The FMCSA considers electronic records as supporting documents, as they record the time, date, and location of vehicles and drivers. Per 49 CFR 395.8, each motor carrier must maintain record of duty status and all supporting documents for each driver it employs for a period of six months. This now includes records from GPS and other advanced information technology systems.

Former American Trucking Associations (ATA) chairman Charles “Shorty” Whittington: “Today we are at a new crossroads with technology and government regulations. The future will depend on our ability to utilize and educate the industry and the government on the appropriate application of technology in managing compliance and improving the overall safety for the industry.”

Bauckman said Qualcomm engaged with key trade associations and provided guidance to FMCSA on GPS technology: the use of technology by the transportation industry; safety and productivity benefits; working to educate regulators on limitations of GPS technology for auditing hours of service; and the need for a grace period.

What this means to carriers:

  • You may be required to make available six months of electronic data (ie, position histories) as supporting documents during an audit.

  • Historically, Qualcomm's data retention setting has been 14 days: Review your current data retention settings for your specific system/vendor.

  • You can change your data retention settings to comply with FMCSA policy.

He said Qualcomm also will provide online help on the Qualcomm Services Portal, assist in identifying current data retention settings on Qualcomm-hosted applications, provide documentation and instructions on how a fleet can modify data retention settings, and provide a Web site with tools, news, and up-to-date communications with FMCSA (http://www.qualcomm.com/qes/fmcsa).

Bauckman did a Q&A to deal with key issues.

Q: How does FMCSA calculate variance in time and position between the log book and GPS records?

A: We believe FMCSA will use the same standards with GPS records as they will with any other supporting documentation: Variance in excess of 50 miles, 60 minutes are considered critical violations and now critical violations will be less than 50 miles and 60 minutes. (See variance statute MC-ECE-0018-08).

Q: I already use the Qualcomm Hours of Service application. Should I be concerned about the FMCSA policy change?

A: This policy change should not have any significant implications for current Hours of Service customers. Data retention periods for the Hours of Service application comply with the FMCSA policy.

Q: What if my company uses a third-party integrator?

A: If you use a third-party dispatch provider that acts as the communication manager, you may contact that provider to determine the data retention periods for their application.

Q: Can Qualcomm change the frequency of position reporting?

A: Yes, although we do not recommend making this change to frequency. Carriers won't have access to enough information to manage their business most effectively.

Electronic onboard recorders

Bauckman said the initial challenges are to move all drivers to electronic logs, roll out a complete new onboard system, train all drivers on at least one new system, coordinate the de-install of the old system and install of a new system, and manage compliance with multiple systems during transition.

He said electronic onboard recorders (EOBRs) remove the temptation to falsify a log, make compliance easy for the driver, improve and expedite your ability to audit for violations/falsifications, and have GPS and ECM inputs that determine locations and movement of the vehicle.

He said the productivity is illustrated by:

  • Minute granularity vs quarter hour. No more rounding errors.

  • Drivers log actual time in a duty status, resulting in less time wasted. If the inspection of a trailer takes eight minutes, that is all that is reflected on the log, instead of 15 minutes on a paper log.

  • Better utilization of driving time.

Transition issues:

  • Installation.

  • Large fleets must install in phases. This creates an issue with some drivers being on EOBR, some on paper until rollout is complete.

  • Fleets may need to secure a third-party installer to supplement the maintenance team.

  • Typical install time was 2.5 hours for two-man team.

The new system is faster, web-based, and has the ability to only edit data within the segment (eliminates creating false data). It will assign the correct driving segments automatically to the proper driver, identify drivers close to or in violation at a glance, identify sensor failures associated with the equipment, detect driver efficiency or inefficiency, provide accuracy based on latitude and longitude, and output multiple reports to audit and correct driver behavior or measure efficiency.

About the Author

Rick Weber | Associate Editor

Rick Weber has been an associate editor for Trailer/Body Builders since February 2000. A national award-winning sportswriter, he covered the Miami Dolphins for the Fort Myers News-Press following service with publications in California and Australia. He is a graduate of Penn State University.