Trucking Tech Concerns: Analysis of AT&T's February Outage

Trucking Tech Concerns: Analysis of AT&T’s February Outage

The recent AT&T outage on February 22 has brought to the forefront significant concerns for trucking tech, particularly around the reliance on electronic logging devices (ELDs) and other technology essential for day-to-day operations. This event has underscored the vulnerability of the sector to technological disruptions and raised questions about preparedness and resilience.

The Immediate Impact on Truckers

The AT&T outage, described as a large-scale disruption, left tens of thousands without cell service, affecting not just everyday communication but also critical trucking operations. ELDs, federally mandated since 2017, depend on reliable cellular service to function properly. These devices are crucial for tracking hours of service, ensuring compliance with regulations designed to prevent driver fatigue.

Tom Crowley, a compliance and regulatory expert for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), highlighted the potential compliance issues arising from such outages. Drivers may need to revert to paper logs, a practice phased out with the advent of ELDs. This shift, although temporary, could pose challenges for drivers unaccustomed to manual logging, potentially leading to errors and compliance issues.

Technology and Cybersecurity Concerns

The outage also brought to light broader concerns regarding technology and cybersecurity for trucking tech in the industry. OOIDA, which has historically opposed the ELD mandate, pointed out the risks associated with over-reliance on technology. The incident raises significant questions about the resilience of trucking operations to technological failures and cyber threats.

Lew Pugh, OOIDA Executive Vice President, emphasized the importance of documenting the switch to paper logs. Such documentation is crucial for audits, which can occur months after the fact and require detailed log history.

Autonomy and Safety

The discussion extended beyond immediate operational concerns to the implications for autonomous vehicles (AVs). The outage underscored the potential consequences of technological failures in a future where trucks might operate without human drivers. “If an ELD screws up, it doesn’t kill anybody. If an AV screws up, it’s a family of five,” Pugh remarked, highlighting the stakes involved in technology-dependent transportation.

Industry Response and Solutions

The outage affected various transportation tech platforms, with Motive, Samsara, and Trimble among those reporting issues. These platforms rely on cellular data for tracking, messaging, and dispatch, illustrating the wide-reaching impact of a service disruption. Meanwhile, platforms like Omnitracs and Verizon Connect reported no impact, suggesting a degree of resilience among certain service providers.

One workaround for carriers was to instruct drivers to use manual paper logs until cellular service was restored. This approach, however, introduced additional challenges, including securing paper logbooks and accounting for missing time once ELD functionality returned.

The Bigger Picture: Reliance on Cellular Networks

Trucking tech experts point out that ELDs depend on cellular networks either directly or through drivers’ cell phones. An outage at a major provider like AT&T therefore disrupts not just communication but also log accuracy and fleet management operations.

Preparing for Future Disruptions: Strategies and Recommendations

In light of these challenges, it’s essential for truck drivers and trucking companies to develop strategies to mitigate the impact of future outages. Here are some recommendations to enhance preparedness:

1. Diversification of Communication Channels

  • Adopt Multiple Service Providers: To reduce the risk of being completely cut off during a provider-specific outage, companies should consider using devices and services from multiple cellular providers.
  • Leverage Satellite Communication: For critical communications, investing in satellite phones or devices can provide a reliable backup when cellular networks are down.

2. Enhanced Training for Drivers

  • Manual Log Training: Regular training sessions on using paper logs can ensure drivers are prepared to switch seamlessly if necessary.
  • Emergency Protocols: Educate drivers on protocols for reporting and managing outages, including how to communicate with dispatch and safety departments during cellular service disruptions.

3. Trucking Tech and Software Resilience

  • Invest in Redundant Systems: Utilizing ELDs and other technologies that can store data locally for several days can prevent data loss and ensure compliance even without real-time connectivity.
  • Regular System Backups: Encourage or mandate regular backups of logs and other critical data to protect against data loss during outages.

4. Documentation and Compliance

  • Clear Documentation Practices: Companies should establish clear guidelines for documenting outages and their impacts on operations, ensuring drivers know how to note these events in their logs.
  • Audit Preparation: Maintain detailed records of communications and actions taken during outages to provide evidence during audits or inspections.

5. Cybersecurity Measures

  • Regular Security Assessments: Conducting regular cybersecurity assessments can help identify vulnerabilities in the technology infrastructure and guide improvements.
  • Cybersecurity Training: Implementing training programs for staff on cybersecurity best practices can mitigate the risk of breaches that could lead to more significant disruptions.

Moving Forward: Lessons and Preparations

The AT&T outage serves as a wake-up call for trucking tech, highlighting the need for contingency plans and resilience in the face of technological disruptions. It emphasizes the importance of training drivers on manual log use, ensuring documentation for compliance purposes, and exploring technological solutions that can provide redundancy and mitigate the impact of future outages.

As the industry navigates the aftermath of this event and prepares for the future, the focus will likely shift to enhancing the reliability and security of the technological infrastructure that underpins modern trucking operations. This incident serves as a reminder of the importance of balancing trucking tech advancements with robust backup systems and training to ensure the safety and efficiency of the trucking industry in an increasingly connected world.




Go toTop

Don't Miss

Container Ship Dali Under Wreckage - FBI Investigation Begins

FBI Investigation Begins After Baltimore Bridge Falls

The FBI is conducting a full-blown investigation of the collapse
Volvo Group to Open New Heavy-Duty Truck Manufacturing Plant in Mexico

Volvo Group Announces New Heavy-Duty Truck Plant in Mexico

Volvo Group has declared plans to establish a new heavy-duty