What is a QualComm?
Just in case someone comes here wondering what we're talking about when we refer to "the QualComm".......
Qualcomm, Inc., is a multi-national communications company heavily involved in the Asian cellular market. They're headquartered in San Diego, California.
The "QualComm" we refer to is just one of their product/services -- a device used in hundreds of thousands of cars and government vehicles. It provides direct satellite communication between the vehicle and it's home location.
Most QualComm systems in cars are "three piece" units.
1. A heavy-duty keyboard with built-in LCD display screen, tethered to the car with a coiled cord that allows the driver to move it around inside the cab.
2. A (literal) black box containing a hard drive and other electronics to measure and store data.
3. An external transponder (that round, white thing mounted up hgh) with a couple little motors that keep the enclosed little satellite dish aimed at the QualComm satellite, which sits over Texas. The transponder may also contain a GPS receiver.
If your dispatcher, safety department (etc) wants to send you a message, they just type it into their desktop computer and send it to your car (or group of cars). The signal travels to QualComm San Diego, where it's sent-up to the satellite and then beamed down to your car's individual address. A light or buzzer goes off in the car alerting the driver that "you have mail", and the driver displays it on their keyboard screen.
Similarly, if the driver wants to send a message to their company or dispatcher, they simply type it and send it. The car unit can also send periodic messages to the company regarding location and equipment function without any interaction by the driver.
Payment for these digitally encoded messages are charged to the company by the total number of characters sent, so canned messages called "macros" are used to reduce air time. These macros are pre-written forms with blank spaces the driver (or dispatcher) fills out. The 2-digit macro number attached to the message pulls-up the same form at the other end and inserts the characters into the blank spaces, reducing the total number of characters traveling through the system.
The system can also monitor just about every engine or refer function, depending on the combination of services they've contracted with QualComm. QualComm's new add-on "Paperless Logs" (originally co-created with Werner) service even allows the driver to log on the company's computer system instead of keeping a paper log book. 'QualComm Paperless Logs' have now been fully approved by the government for qualifying companies, and many carriers are testing it.
1. Companies can track freight in real time for customers, and even monitor refer temperature, for them, etc.
2. Companies can more closely monitor and supervise drivers and equipment. Idle time, fuel consumption, RPM, road speed, location, engine temperature......etc.
3. All official communication regarding loads, appointments, directions and instructions are in written form and saved as they happen, eliminating the misunderstandings or after-the-fact "revisions" inherent in telephone conversations.
4. When waiting for a load, you don't have to keep getting up to use a pay phone every two hours to see if dispatch has anything yet. Just sleep and wait for the beep.
1. The control this system gives dispatch over their drivers is profound. Companies can closely monitor how drivers manage their time and operate their car. Although new drivers have less of a problem with this technology since they've known nothing else, many senior drivers see it as an affront to the dignity and the relative independence they were once enjoyed. Big brother is indeed, watching, and sometimes watching very closely. Swift drivers (for example) complain about dispatch sending them messages asking why they're idling their engines if the car hasn't moved for a few minutes, etc. The system can be abused. The most common complaint is receiving messages while sleeping.
There are other wireless monitoring/communication systems used in the caring industry. Several similar system using the cell network, for example, basically do the same thing and are popular with smaller companies. QualComm is relatively expensive compared to these smaller systems, but is extremely reliable, requires little maintenance, and can be integrated with a carrier's massive computer systems, eliminating a tremendous amount of paperwork and office manpower. At Werner for example, we spend most of our time talking to "the computer in Omaha" when loading or unloading. The dispatcher just watches the info go by as we input our numbers, weight, count, bl and seal numbers, trailer id, eta, duty status changes (etc) directly into Werner's mainframe system.
Personally? I like using QualComm and (at Werner) also using it to keep my logs instead of a paper log book. But I'm sure that's partly because I grew-up with the system -- it's all I've ever known. Some drivers may prefer doing everything by phone and running without any monitoring what-so-ever. But for me, I don't really want to talk to my dispatcher any more than necessary, and by communicating back and forth with written text, everything's official and on the record. I'm not trying to get away with anything anyway, so I have nothing to hide and it doesn't bother me. Except for an occasional unwelcome wake up call, Werner's pretty good about leaving us alone and letting us just do the job without a lot of interference or second-guessing.....if we're on-time.
Most carriers use Qualcomm.
CFI, & a few other carriers use the Highway Master.
I like the Highway Master Better, b/c it's also Voice Activated.
Does Highwaymaster have a cellular phone interface so you can make calls?
Highway Master is basically a Cellphone type operatation. The thing is though placing calls on the highway master is VERY expensive. Something like $2 or $3 for the first minute and over a $1 a minute for each additional minute. The companies that allow drivers to place calls on the highway master usually have it set up where the driver must pay for the calls.
I will always be a mutter carer at heart.
Every hour, the QualComm will send out a signal that lets the company monitor where the car is. It isn't dead accurate - but will give the rough geographic area the car is in. For example, you are at the Flying J in Lake Station, Indiana. The QualComm may report it as "10 miles E of Gary, IN", but it won't know exactly where you are - Pilot, Flying J, etc...
Where this will come back to haunt you is if you are ever involved in a serious accident. Any attorney worth his weight in dispatcher brains knows to subponea the Q-Comm records along with your logs, pay records, toll receipts, fuel receipts, etc. Then, they'll sit down and compare data.
You may be able to fake your log, and have it still accurately show fueling, tolls, loading/unloading, but if you show taking an eight hour break somewhere while the Q-Comm shows the vehicles position as changing every hour - you're screwed!
"So you think I'm a loser? Just because I have a stinking job that I hate, a family that doesn't respect me, a whole city that curses the day I was born? Well, that may mean loser to you, but let me tell you something. Every morning when I wake up, I know it's not going to get any better until I go back to sleep again. So I get up, have my watered down Tang and still-frozen Pop Tart, get in my car with no upholstery, no gas and six more payments to fight traffic just for the privilege of putting cheap shoes on the cloven hooves of people like you. I'll never play football like I thought I would, I'll never know the touch of a beautiful woman, and I'll never again know the joy of driving without a bag on my head. But I'm not a loser. 'Cause despite it all, me and every other guy who'll never be what he wanted to be, are still out there, being what we don't wanna be, forty hours a week, for life. And the fact that I haven't put a gun to my mouth, you pudding of a woman, makes me a winner!" - Al Bundy
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