UPS tests devices that keep track of truck data

Mobile computer wirelessly logs departure and arrival times, measure and compile truck speed, RPM, braking and idle-time data, and more.

United Parcel Service is testing a new ruggedized mobile computer in its trucks that can wirelessly log departure and arrival times and provide managers with data on vehicle speed and idle times.

Test versions of Motorola's VC6096 Windows Mobile-based system, unveiled last week, have been installed inside long-haul UPS trailer trucks and large trucks that move packages among sorting facilities.

A spokeswoman wouldn't say how many of the computers Atlanta-based UPS plans to buy, but she noted that it will be a "sizable" number by the time the company's deployment is completed, which is expected in 2010.

The computers will be generally available early next year for US$4,395.

The spokeswoman said UPS has used the system to measure and compile truck speed, RPM, braking and idle-time data. More functions will be tested later.

The 2.2kg computer includes a keyboard, a 6.5-inch touch display, 128MB of RAM and 256MB of flash memory. It supports Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth wireless specifications.

UPS said its 100,000-plus drivers will continue to use their fourth-generation proprietary handhelds jointly built by Motorola and Symbol Technologies Inc., which Motorola acquired last year.

Kevin Burden, an analyst at ABI Research, said vehicle telemetrics have long been controversial because of fears that management will invade drivers' privacy.

Despite these concerns, Burden said companies such as J.B. Hunt Transport Services have found that they can use such systems to "stay on top of the workforce in the trucking business, where time is everything."