ORLANDO, FL. Known either as electronic onboard recorders (EOBRs) or simply electronic driver logs (EDLs), they will soon enough become a very large part of trucking’s regulatory compliance landscape and suppliers of these devices are wasting no time preparing various types of to have them in the market before the federal EOBR mandate takes effect.

According to Anne Ferro, Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration , the agency expects to release the new proposed EOBR rule in the first quarter of next year. It could then take until sometime in 2014 for the final rule to be published. “We expect that there will be a two-year grace period from when the final rule is issued, so enforcement of it will most likely start by 2015 or 2016,” Norm Ellis, vp of T&L sales, services & marketing for Qualcomm Enterprise Services (QES) told FleetOwner here at the annual TMW TransForum Users’ Conference.

Three or four years until a new reg hits may seem an eternity away to fleet owners dealing with the day-to-day management of trucking. However, to avoid disruptions to their businesses when the rule does hit, fleets are well-advised not to wait until the eleventh hour to make decisions on what EOBR solutions they will embrace nor to develop plans to implement  them, including training drivers and other personnel

As for industry suppliers, a few years is but a brief window for them to have EOBR solutions ready to supply by day one that are scalable to meet what will be massive demand—as every commercial truck or each truck driver will have to be furnished with some sort of compliant logging device.

“Qualcomm already has over 150,000 users of our EOBR products,” relates QES’s Ellis. “Internally, we are scaling our operation to meet the anticipated demand from the reg. We can now cover 600,000 concurrent users and that figure will go to 1,200,000 by next year.”

“Some 3.4-million drivers, including 1.7-million owner-operators, will be affected by the EOBR rule,” Christian Schenk, vp of market development  & product marketing for XRS Corp. (formerly Xata Corp.), told FleetOwner. “We expect we’ll see an increase in [EPBR interest] out of the gate in 2013, then it will sack off in 2014 and then we’ll see mass chaos in 2015 as fleets start to scramble to be in compliance.”

The devices that will meet the EOBR rule will also reflect the realities of trucking today—that means, according to suppliers, that electronic driver logs will run the gamut from onboard computer systems to specially enabled smartphones.

For example, XRS’s Schenk said that the company’s new XRS “all-mobile platform” will enable EOBR compliance on more than 50 types of mobile devices, including smartphones,  that will automatically transmit vehicle and operator data directly to a management dashboard.

“Some 86% of truck drivers already have mobile devices in use, so there are no additional hardware costs associated with XRS,” Schenk continued. “And it’s flexible to work alongside thousands of other apps available for smartphones and tablets. That means the system can be made as big or as small as users need, whether they are owner-operators or small, medium or large trucking operations.”

Schenk pointed out that all the firm’s customers will eventually move to the XRS mobile computing platform, the software for which will be cloud-hosted via Amazon. “Then it will come down to the device they run it on—a cab-mounted one, a tablet, a smartphone. And when the new rule hits, there will not be enough qualified techs to install traditional onboard computers to handle the demand, which can take two to three hours each to install.  Our system, though, can be installed in 10 minutes on a mobile device.” He noted that the product is now in “pre-release” with 50 fleets currently using it.

QES’s Ellis said that Qualcomm will be prepared for the new rule with solutions ranging from its MCP200 onboard computer system to a smartphone app.  “This April, we released the MCP50, which we designed for medium- to small-fleet operators to give them the computing and technology advantages larger fleets get with our MCP100 and MCP200 systems. He noted that this EOBR solution is “value-priced” and some 20,000 have been sold in just five months.

“We’re working on an Android smartphone app that is due out in early 2013,” he continued. “This will connect [wirelessly] with a box on the truck that hooks up to the truck’s data bus. We’ll launch this as a turnkey product that includes the mobile device and a data plan. But if the user already has a smartphone, we will sell them just the app, the data plan and the [hookup] box or just the app and the box for the truck.”