On December 2015, Congress passed a legislation (MAP21) that necessitates commercial drivers to use Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) to monitor and increase compliance with driver hours of service regulations. Apart from introducing new technical standards, the legislation also requires that commercial drivers implement and use ELDs by December 18, 2017. All these measures were taken in an effort to increase the safety of drivers and to prevent fatal accidents caused by fatigued commercial drivers. However, the current ELD market is quite biased. The existing providers of driver monitoring systems and ELDs use expensive proprietary hardware and software systems that are only affordable to the largest trucking carriers. To add to the woes, "these legacy systems are clunky, confusing, and expensive," informs Stephen G. Eick, Founder, President and CEO of VisTracks.
With open system architecture coming onto the fore and with Google's Android and Apple’s iOS platforms at everyone's reach, the team at VisTracks came up with the idea to create a smart phone application and back office that would provide the government mandated ELD functionality with the price point of a consumer device and the ease of use of a smart phone application, and the real-time analytic capabilities provided by Amazon Web Services. VisTracks’s Hours of Service is a white-labeled, reseller-based FMCSA-certified ELD software for electronic logging of driver hours of service, vehicle inspections, electronic work orders, and IFTA.
The solution from VisTracks is an apt replacement for the outdated proprietary ELD solutions since it is walk-up-usable, leverages analytics to predict and alert the drivers before they have "hours of service" violations, and communicates all this information to fleet managers through a portal interface. "We wanted to take advantage of the Smartphone or tablet's camera to take pictures of failed vehicle inspection items and use speech-to-text to eliminate typing manual data entry for failed inspection items," elucidates Dr. Eick, who holds a Ph.D. in Statistics.
The firm's service couples as a portal for the fleet manager and a smart device for the driver. VisTracks's mobile app uses a Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or tethered connection to a vbus device that is connected to the vehicle bus real-time engine data every second. The application then uses this data to create the driver's duty status events for his Hours of Service driving log.
The Hours of Service uses analytic means to evaluate the legal driving hours for a driver making it precise for the drivers
This is then used constantly check if the vehicle has crossed jurisdictions and driving rules are recalculated and a warning is sent to the respective driver if there is an impending violation. This information is sent to the Amazon AWS servers every three minutes and is available to the fleet manager via the portal. When the mobile device loses conductivity, the data is cached on the mobile device and is synchronized the next time conductivity is restored. This is a true IoT application.
"We get universal acclaim from our customers about how easy our application is to use, even by drivers with limited exposure to computers," delineates Dr. Eick. IFTA fuel tax reporting becomes easier and more accurate with VisTracks' solution. "Paper logs are difficult to break down in less than 15-minute increments. By automating these transitions by polling the engine bus in the vehicle every second, we can now make driver's reports accurate to the minute," the industry veteran informs. When companies go through audits or roadside inspections, they take a lot of time and thus have a high cost to the motor carrier. With VisTracks' solution, it is now possible for the drivers to certify their logs as true. Roadside inspections become simple and quick. "Compliance officers know that ELD certified trucks won't take them much time to inspect because that driver’s logs are electronically processed and validated. Clerical cost to maintain paper records is greatly reduced as well," notes Dr. Eick.
The beauty of the product lies in the fact that it is very complex software that is encapsulated under an easy-to-use user interface for non-technical truck drivers and back office personnel. As a testament to this, the firm now has over 50 resellers. The company's experience in developing software for complex IoT applications such as the Iraq War, has also procured the firm the requisite expertise to develop software that fulfilled all 530 pages-worth of ELD regulations, and all the end cases that arose.
The IoT-enabled mobile application runs on any Android 4.4.2 device and above. Being device agnostic, VisTracks is soon to be releasing an iOS 10.3 version for Apple phones and iPads. The application supports Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or tethered connections to a vbus device that provides real-time engine data. Fleet managers have access to real-time driver status and both the drivers and managers are alerted in advance of any impending violations.