How the 3G network shutdowns could disrupt the trucking industry

Just last week, Blackberry announced devices running on the original operating system and services would no longer be supported, ending an era that for many of us saw email on a smartphone for the very first time. In fact, they became so addictive in the early 2000s they were often affectionately referred to as “crackberries.” But with the explosion of on-the-go mobile devices led by Apple’s iPhone in 2007, the Blackberry’s days were numbered.

So is the case for the 3G cellular network, as U.S. network providers sunset their 3G networks in the next few months, potentially leaving a large portion of the trucking industry without ELD network connectivity.

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According to the FMCSA, “Once a 3G network is no longer supported, it is highly unlikely that any ELDs that rely on that network will be able to meet the minimum requirements established by the ELD technical specifications, including recording all required data elements and transferring ELD output files.”

If a carrier finds an ELD is no longer working after the 3G sunset, they will only have eight days to get the malfunction resolved by way of replacement unless an extension is granted.

Solutions depending on 3G infrastructure will cease to function after the sunset.

“It’s almost too late already,” according to Steven Dwight, Senior Vice President of business development at TruckX. “Lack of planning, procrastination and a late adopter mindset will put carriers in big trouble, something in the likes of the ELD mandate.”

In an early warning to the trucking industry, trucking technology expert Vishnu Rajamanickam wrote, “transitioning requires carriers to tear out and replace the 3G systems with the new 4G LTE hardware on their trucks, which involves shipping out the required hardware to maintenance centers across the country and diverting trucks to the nearest service center for reinstalling the new hardware.”

That’s a big deal in the modern era of over-the-air upgrades.

When will the 3G sunset arrive?

These are the dates for completing the shutdowns although some mobile carriers are planning to retire parts of their networks sooner:

  • AT&T 3G: February 22, 2022
  • Sprint 3G (T-Mobile): March 31, 2022
  • Sprint LTE (T-Mobile): June 30, 2022
  • T-Mobile 3G: July 1, 2022
  • Verizon 3G: December 31, 2022

What should carriers do now?

If drivers are unsure their ELD relies on a 3G network, they should immediately contact their provider and ask about their plan for upgrading or replacing the ELD device to one that will be supported after the 3G sunset.

The earliest announced sunset completion date is February 22, 2022.

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