E-Logs

As an over-the-road truck driver, in the past couple of months I had to make the mandatory switch away from a paper logbook that had to be filled out each day to an electronic logging system, or so-called E-Logs. For some time now I knew the changeover was in the works, nonetheless I approached this change with trepidation.

Certain trucking companies have been using electronic logging systems for a number of years. At this point, it is being pushed out into the mainstream.

The system my trucking company is using is manufactured by Qualcomm and powered by a proprietary embedded version of Microsoft Windows.

Training in preparation for a dual paper/electronic trial run consisted of watching an internal company-prepared video that didn’t come close to answering all of my questions or leaving me with the feeling of confidence that I could easily master the system.

Furthermore, even though this is a proprietary embedded version of Windows, it is still Windows and it is clunky as ever. The particular system in my truck, rather than using the traditional Qualcomm two-way satellite communications instead uses a full-time data connection. I have no way of knowing which data network the unit uses, but there’s only been one time I’ve been aware of so far where the unit didn’t have a connection back to the company computer system. The system uses a 6-inch color pressure-sensitive touch screen with audio out attached through the driver’s side door speaker of the truck’s stereo system. There’s also a large slide-out keyboard to type on, as well as an on-screen keyboard that can be used instead.

My initial experience with the system wasn’t good. It was as awkward as can be. I don’t know which company wrote the electronic logbook portion of the embedded software, but it comes across as very poorly designed. This is an embedded system for use in industry, and making the design interface user-friendly isn’t necessary for sales numbers.

That being said, once I learned all of the quirks of the software and how to quickly make it do what I want it to, I now find that I really like it. Filling out a paper logbook each day is akin to filling out a tax return every day. E-Logs do end up saving a lot of time and hassle. It eliminates not only the logbook paperwork but also the need to send it back to the company. Also, as long as one follows the overall logbook rules it becomes impossible to end up with a logbook violation.

One of the nicest features is that it automatically changes driving status. I can edit everything except driving time, even though the editing process itself is unbelievably quirky and literally screams poorly designed Windows application. The ability to edit varies from one trucking company to another. An additional feature I really like is that it breaks everything down into one-minute intervals, as opposed to the fifteen-minute intervals of the traditional paper logbook.

Now that I’ve gotten familiar with the E-Log system, I’m happy with it.

Cobra 7750 Platinum Trucker’s GPS

After my recent unacceptable experience with the TomTom GO 2535M Live with two separate units spontaneously falling into an endless reboot loop, I decided it was time to try another brand of GPS.

After getting a refund in full from Best Buy, I decided to try a GPS that’s specifically aimed at truck drivers. Trucker-specific GPS units tend to carry significantly higher price tags. My question was, do they deliver extra value?

So, I made my way to a Pilot truck stop and purchased a Cobra 7750 Platinum 7” widescreen trucker GPS. Pretty much every Pilot truck stop has a GPS display set up with various brands of trucker-specific GPS units. On the Cobra unit they have a very slick, highly produced sales video playing on the unit itself that really puts the model 7750 in a very good light. I was impressed, so I purchased one. In Pilot the Cobra 7750 sells for $399 plus tax. It can be purchased from Amazon.Com for about $340 if one has time to wait for shipping.

The Cobra brand has long been associated with CB radios sold at truck stops marketed specifically to truck drivers, so a trucker-specific GPS would seem to be a natural product extension.

The best part of the 7750 was the large, bright 7” widescreen display. Unfortunately, the 7750’s pressure-sensitive touch screen left a bit to be desired, producing a higher-than-average number of errors compared to similar pressure-sensitive touch screens. Pressure-sensitive touch screen technology has been around for years, so this may reflect build-quality issues.

The 7750 seems to be using some variation of TomTom software, since it displays an event horizon near the top of the screen with blue sky and clouds in the daytime mode and a black sky with moving stars in the night display mode just like TomTom units do.

The menu screens gave me the impression they were perhaps scaled for smaller screens. It could have been that they were trying to make the menu icons large and easy to select in a bouncing truck, but they gave me the impression of lack of refinement.

To be perfectly honest, I found the 7750 to be hugely disappointing. Entering addresses proved to be a clunky, somewhat confusing, time-consuming experience. Pilot Truck Stops have a 7 day money back return policy on GPS items, with a 14 day exchange policy. I was within the 7 days and I realized I would never be happy with the 7750, so I took it back and exchanged it for a Garmin DEZL 560LT.