Choosing a truly cost-effective in-cab device for your drivers

Mar 1, 2024

Trucking technology solutions are here to help the trucking industry and make fleet management easier. In-cab devices and tablets are available to replace inefficient paper logs, while placing navigational and operational data at the driver’s fingertips. Life is great.

Well, in theory.

The reality is that not all tablets are created equal when it comes to trucking technology solutions. Consumer applications are one thing, but trucking and freight is a tough and complex industry. In this article, we’ll explore in detail why consumer tablets may not meet expectations, especially for overcoming winter challenges in trucking, and even extremely hot temperatures.

A Bewildering Number of Choices for Consumer-Grade Tablets

The ELD mandate forced many truck companies to innovate, as legacy telematics fell short of requirements. So, fleets like Heartland Express started shopping around for trucking technology solutions for fleet management.

It was at this point that Heartland discovered there was a bewildering array of tablet options to choose from. “Not only that,” recalls Heartland’s Director of Operations James Tornblom, “but you have to decide if cellular coverage is the right call. Or do you go with Wi-Fi systems? You have to figure out how that device is going to connect to the internet. Can it do so on its own? Or does it need a hotspot? Can you trust Bluetooth systems? Or is it better to hardwire the system?”

Consumer-Grade Tablets: A Deceptive Bargain

When considering a tablet, it’s time to carefully evaluate costs. Consumer tablets may seem like a bargain in this regard. The reality is, however, that they are not built for the trucking lifestyle.

Consumer tablets can struggle with the vibrations of the cab, temperature extremes, and the constant handling they’ll endure. Swollen batteries in the summer, constant unreliability in the winter, cracked screens… These will lead to more breakdowns, driver frustrations, and the disruptive hassle of managing technology failures on the road.

“We had our drivers cover the tablets with blankets and jackets to keep them warm enough to work,” notes Director of Safety Ann Reifsnyder from Peters Brothers Trucking.

Configuring Consumer-Grade Tablets: Easier Said than Done

Buying a tablet is merely the first step in a carrier’s global experience with their in-cab devices. To accurately provide drivers with value-added data while monitoring operations, fleets need a whole technology ecosystem that can support the necessary trucking-specific, third-party apps. The tablets also need to be reliable both in terms of hardware and software. Provider support, in the event of any issues, must be readily available, direct and extremely responsive, as your operations on the road are at stake.

“We went to a mobile platform option and bought our own tablets, which was a nightmare to manage. The data costs, IT issues and lack of combined support caused us to search for a provider again,” Ann Reifsnyder elaborates.

Some unexpected challenges can also arise. As James Tornblom from Heartland Express, relates: “The consumer tablets came preloaded with apps that all had to be blocked to ensure drivers stayed focused on the road while driving. And configuring the consumer-grade tablets so they were controlled in a professional way that only displayed what fleet managers wanted them to be was easier said than done.”

The Real Impact of Downtime

Service disruptions can happen, but they don’t have to evolve into logistical nightmares. However, when a fleet is juggling multiple technology providers such as tablet manufacturers, software providers and cellular providers, it can quickly turn to chaos.

When technology fails, fleets must often revert to less efficient work methods like paper logging. This not only slows down operations but introduces errors and inefficiencies. Even worse, your drivers might lose access to instructions and navigation just when they need it, and end up frustrated—a situation impacting driver happiness. In a time when it’s hard to find and keep good drivers, this can be a costly mistake.

The hassle of managing non-specialized technology becomes a hidden cost, complicating tasks that should be straightforward.

Choosing Rugged Trucking Technology Solutions for Fleet Management

In contrast, specialized trucking tablets such as the ones offered by ISAAC are designed to last. They are portable enough to come out of the cab if a driver needs to take photos during an inspection, yet also tough enough to handle the rigors of trucking.

“I don’t think we’ve had a single ISAAC device fail,” Lou Giardelli, Director of Information Technology of Veltri Inc., says. “Our cellular coverage issues have disappeared, and our drivers are now all on the same network, using the same system. They’re now able to do everything via workflow as our operations team plan so, it’s been the perfect solution for us.”

And the best part? The ISAAC tablet is a part of an open ecosystem that integrates with existing Truck Management Software (TMS). Fleet managers rejoice: instead of juggling multiple providers, choosing a unified technology solution like ISAAC’s will simplify fleet management, save you time, and bring order to chaos.

James Tornblom from Heartland Express shares, “Dealing with multiple technology partners increased our workload significantly. Switching to a single, reliable partner has allowed us to focus more on moving freight and less on managing technology.”

Conclusion: Making an Informed Decision

Selecting the right trucking technology solutions for fleet management goes beyond just comparing purchasing prices. Ask yourself the following: what does your fleet need to operate efficiently? What kind of environmental challenges will your devices be subjected to? What will be the long-term costs of maintaining this equipment in good working order?

While consumer-grade tablets might offer short-term savings, they often fail to meet the long-term demands of trucking, leading to increased downtime and additional costs.

Industry-specific solutions like ISAAC’s rugged tablets provide the reliability and durability trucking operations require. By opting for a solution designed with trucking in mind, fleet managers can enhance efficiency, and ensure their drivers have the tools they need to succeed.

We’ve prepared a whitepaper to help fleet managers and trucking professionals make the right decision when shopping for trucking technology solutions for fleet management—one that will benefit their operations in the long run.

Download the Whitepaper

Time to move forward with managed technology

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