By Eric M. Johnson
SEATTLE (Reuters) - Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and U.S. truck fleet services company Omnitracs said on Thursday they are rolling out a tablet-software package to help smaller carriers comply with a looming federal regulation to log driver hours electronically.
The platform combines Omnitracs measurement and reporting software on Samsung's devices such as the Galaxy Tab E, with embedded security software, the companies told Reuters.
The platform is aimed at hundreds of mid-sized and smaller carriers facing two of the most significant challenges in the industry: switching from paper to electronic logs by Dec. 18, and finding cheaper ways to attract and retain drivers.
The package lets drivers that haul America's freight log hours on the road and then use the device for relaxation, like watching Netflix or catching up on the news at one of Warren Buffett's Pilot Flying J truck stops. [nL2N1ME0FV]
"Our drivers are saving 15 to 20 minutes of administrative time each day," said Zach Dirksen, corporate treasurer at Rocha Transportation, a 50-truck operator using the tablet before Thursday's expanded rollout.
Samsung and Dallas-based Omnitracs said four small and mid-sized carriers, including Rocha, are using the platform, though they declined to provide the names of other operators who have shown interest. They aim to have their platform used by between 500 and 600 fleets by the end of 2018.
"With improved fleet and device management, we're seeing hardware cost savings of approximately 70 percent by switching to Samsung," Dirksen said.
Paper logs, which are currently widely used, allow truckers to fudge the books, inflating their hours on the road and boosting the bottom line. [nL2N1C212G]
The mandate could sap productivity by from 3 percent to much as 15 percent, according to industry estimates, forcing trucking outfits to find more drivers to haul the same amount of freight.
While major carriers like Schneider National and Knight-Swift Transportation Holdings have used electronic logs for years, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration estimates the mandate will affect nearly 3.4 million drivers.
"They are kind of late to the game here, with December 18 fast approaching," said Kevin Burch, president of Dayton, Ohio-based Jet Express, Inc., which uses rival PeopleNet's eDriver Logs. Many carriers "have already made the investment (to comply with the mandate)" but may be open to solutions that prove better, he said.
Samsung and Omnitracs say they are targeting carriers that have not made any moves toward compliance, or plan to wait until the last minute.
(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by James Dalgleish)