The increasing value placed on the permitted working hours of US truck drivers, driven largely through a 2017 mandate to use electronic logging device (ELDs) — which will tighten further in mid-December — is giving freight technology providers a new opening to help drivers and cargo owners make the most of that available time.
Trucking telematics hardware and software supplier Konexial made such a move on Wednesday, releasing a free driver app intended to supplant established providers of such smartphone tools as it hopes to lure drivers wary of a Dec. 16 deadline to switch from automatic on-board recording devices (AOBRDs) to ELDs.
The app, called DriveLIFE, is intended to augment the company’s ELD hardware and associated software for drivers, and provides mapping, routing, and parking information that drivers have come to rely on from smartphone apps. It also contains embedded facility rating information from Dock411, a crowd-sourced platform for drivers that provides details on wait times, parking availability, and loading/unloading procedures.
The app is available for iPhones Wednesday and for Android phones on Dec. 31, and is free to use for drivers, even if they aren’t user of Konexial’s ELD hardware.
Combating app fatigue
Driver apps that provide benefits from routing instructions to store coupons to fuel discounts are nothing new to the US trucking market, with Trucker Tools and TruckerPath among the leading purveyors. In addition, most freight brokers offer some form of app for drivers to enable them to handle some combination of load acceptance, document upload, or visibility tools.
Many of these apps are designed to either provide other parties — namely, shippers and freight brokers — visibility to loads in transit or available capacity, or, as a next step, to underpin load matching.
Konexial CEO Ken Evans told JOC.com he's aware of driver app fatigue but focused development of his company’s app on solving driver pain points, and then developing the most user-intuitive way to solve those issues.
He said the app has benefits to shippers in that the connected web portal allows shippers capabilities that pure visibility tracking tools don’t.
“We’re creating a different process than the visibility providers,” he said. “This helps shippers not only get visibility but also [artificial intelligence]-based document exchange, and push-to-talk technology. As a shipper, you can go to the Konexial site, request access to track your shipment, and you’ll be able to push-to-talk and send a voice message to the dispatcher. When drivers are driving, they’re not allowed to talk on the phone or look at text messages. So, you’ll be able to see not just where a small driver is, but also send docs or a message.”
The app also allows drivers to take a picture of any document or piece of paper, and Konexial’s mapping tool will determine what type of document it is. Evans said Konexial will also be using its own location data and information from its partnership with Dock411 to create a FICO score-type of system to rate facilities.
Competitive ELD landscape
In a crowded ELD market, where incumbents like Omnitracs, PeopleNet (now owned by Trimble), and J.J. Keller are competing with well-capitalized newer entrants like Platform Science, Samsara, and KeepTruckin — three players that have raised a collective $785 million — Evans said Konexial is focused on the Apple model of vertical integration.
“The thing that makes us different is we vertically integrate and service every aspect of the technology and information chain,” he said. “If you want to make great software, you have to make good hardware. All this tech has to become easier to use and seamless. We put man years into how you simplify something so a truck driver can use it without a five-inch-thick manual.”
Other providers, such as Platform Science, must suggest they too are focused on vertical integration between hardware and software, while many telematics providers now give users access to app ecosystems that never existed in previous generations of fleet management tools.
Konexial in October acquired the customer base of Axle Technologies, an AOBRD hardware provider for whom Konexial upgraded customers to ELD-compliant devices.
Evans also touted as a differentiator Konexial’s use of edge computing, where in the instance of ELDs, the telematics data processing and analysis takes place in the driver’s cab rather than in a centralized server.