EDMONTON, Alta. – It’s been nearly two decades since sporting a cell phone was viewed as a bit of a novelty and the latest technology status symbol.
As spotty reception has depleted, cell phones have emerged as more than just a convenient way to stay in touch with everyone in your phone book, almost anywhere your busy schedule takes you. Performing anything and everything from being personal calendars and contact lists, downloading music and ringtones, watching television and movies, taking and sending pictures and video, browsing the Internet, and accessing e-mail; the cell phone of today has morphed into an all- in-one tool for the business professional.
With the professional truck driver in mind, an Edmonton-based company has taken cell phone technology one step further and created an adaptable wireless logbook.
After two years in development, Verigo is set to introduce its wireless logbook to the trucking industry this October.
“We developed the product on pocket PCs and over the two-year development we have adapted it to the cell phone,” explained Robin Doherty, president of Verigo. “With the cell phone you get better connectivity because you don’t need a Wi-Fi hotspot as it connects through the cell phone network.”
The concept of the wireless logbook originally came to life in the mid-’90s during a trip home to Edmonton from Slave Lake, Alta. Doherty was en-route doing an evaluation of a driver trainer, when they began talking about ways to simplify the logbook.
“It was about the same time the Apple Newton came out and we got to discussing about a better way to do logbooks,” Doherty told Truck West.
The concept percolated with Doherty over the next decade and remained in the back of his mind during the rest of his 21-year career in the trucking industry. As technology advancements continued, the idea of a wireless logbook moved closer to the forefront of Doherty’s agenda.
“I figured it would be easier to develop the software to make this work, rather than a separate piece of hardware,” noted Doherty.
During the development phases, Verigo has worked extensively with Transport Canada to ensure the new wireless logbook concept was within the confines of federal law.
“One section of the rules states that you can use an electronic device, as long as it has all the same functions as a paper logbook,” noted the company’s president.
Doherty is quick to point out that the new wireless logbook from Verigo is not an on-board recorder and is not connected to the truck or engine. It’s simply an electronic version of a paper logbook.
“The real motivation behind this is we wanted to make the job easier for the driver,” said Doherty, a truck driver of nine years. “We wanted to create a tool that makes them better off and not a new system that creates more steps. And I think we got it.”
In developing the software, Verigo aimed to duplicate the look and feel of the traditional paper logbook, emulating the same traditional grid on the screen of a handheld device.
When inserting information into the log section, a driver is presented with a number of predetermined descriptors. Each section, whether on-duty, off-duty, sleeper or driving, has different options; but the driver also has the option of entering a response not listed in the dropdown menu.
“You can even modify entries just like on a paper logbook by crossing it out and initialing it, in case of a mistake or a mistyped entry,” noted Doherty.
One of the tasks the Verigo wireless logbook software aims to eliminate for the driver is Hours-of-Service calculation. By entering essential data into the handheld device, the software will automatically calculate the trip recap and display available driving hours, refreshing every 15 minutes.
The software has been programmed with a rollover date to switch automatically to new Hours-of-Service rules that come Jan. 1, 2007. A forecast option in the wireless logbook also will tell the driver how many driving hours are available if they were to cross the border into the US; and similarly when crossing back into Canada.
“In all of this we’re trying to make it easy for the driver to use. We’re trying to make it so simple to comply and simple to understand, so there is no misinterpretation,” said Doherty.
All the data displayed on the screen of the handheld device can be sent by e-mail back to the terminal or to a CVSA roadside inspector, if they have Internet access and want to look at more than the handheld screen.
“If they want 14 days of record, you can send 14 days of record,” commented Doherty.
Back in May, Verigo debuted its technology during the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators annual general meeting in Prince Edward Island to optimistic reviews.
“One thing CVSA inspectors from the US asked us to include was a place where they could input a signature,” Doherty explained.
During the development phase, a few of the handheld devices were dispatched into the field. In June 2005, three drivers were granted a special 30-day permit from Alberta Infrastructure and Transportation to test the handheld device.
“It took us 45 days to pry it from their hands,” said Doherty. “They did have a few suggestions of how we could make it better, so we went back and made some changes. Every time throughout this process when we get a review, we have been able to adapt it to the program. The latest modification was to add a trip inspection report.”
The Verigo wireless logbook software will run on a pocket PC or cell phone using Windows Mobility 3 or 5 operating systems, which include the Audiovox 5050 and the UTStarcom 6600 and 6700 models.
The software can be purchased in three different formats ranging from $79 to $149. To utilize the e-mailing capabilities of the software a subscription is required, which ranges between $200 for one year and $300 for three years, which are guaranteed fixed costs.
Targeted neither specifically for fleets or drivers, the wireless logbook does not require external software to integrate into an operation.
“There’s no extra infrastructure for a carrier to use the program, all they need is an e-mail address,” added Doherty. “It’s also a device a driver could go out and buy just because they like it; and it doesn’t have to upset the whole system.” For more info, visit www.verigo.ca.