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The Cost of Electronic On-board Recorders

A few blog posts ago, I covered the differences between ELDs, EOBRs, and AOBRDs. Having brought some clarity to this array of technology and acronyms, an unanswered question was: “What do these things cost?”

The cost, as you might expect, depends.

EOBRs are actually more than a recording device. They include connections with vehicle sensors, an interactive application using a mobile computing platform, telematics services, a hosted management system, and web-based portal services. Most EOBRs provide more than automated driver logs and include other fleet management services, such as load assignments, location tracking, vehicle diagnostics, navigation, and more.

At the high end, a $2,000 on-board telematics system with a monthly service fee of $30-$50 would typically provide a suite of applications essential for carrier operations. The monthly cost to add an EOBR application is often only a few dollars, if anything.

At the lower end, the simplest EOBRs use a small recorder device with a connection to vehicle sensors and a Bluetooth connection to a smart phone for driver interaction. The cost may bundle hardware and EOBR services in a monthly fee of $30-40, although the carrier or driver must use their own smart phone and data plan. There are also many systems with costs somewhere in between.

In addition to the hardware and monthly service fees, there are other costs to consider, such as:

• Installation and vehicle downtime for installation,
• Training drivers how to use a new device and application,
• System management ,
• Hardware repairs, and
• Special services such as compliance records management and audits.

For an accurate net cost picture, fleets should also consider benefits, such as:

• Companies that adopt EOBRs can realize cost savings since the need for paper records is eliminated, drivers no longer have to mail or fax forms to the carrier, back-office processing is streamlined, and time- and resource-intensive paper records audits are eliminated.

• EOBRs have been proven effective in reducing “form and manner” and “out-of-service” violations. Fewer fines and a reduction in time lost due to roadside inspections can also lower costs.

• There is evidence that compliant drivers often gain miles per month with EOBRs because they manage their time better and dispatchers better manage load assignments.

Most carriers and drivers that use EOBRs have realized significant value with a positive return on investment.

EOBRs have other important benefits, too, with compliance and safety improvements topping the list. As shippers are increasingly look at carrier safety measures in alignment with FMCSA’s Compliance, Safety and Accountability (CSA) program, compliance and safety are taking on even more importance.

Finally, EOBR costs will be affected by a significantly expanded market due to the expected EOBR mandate. (See my previous blog about the mandate.) While this generally suggests lower prices, the market may include segments where features and services will be more important than low price.

So, the next question to be addressed should be: “How do you optimize the value of EOBRs?”

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