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Why fleets shouldn’t dread 3G to 4G transition

It’s the right time to take stock of existing vendor partnerships

Photo credit: FreightWaves / Jim Allen / PowerFleet

Trucks and trailers throughout the country currently utilize tens of thousands of 3G telematics devices ⁠— devices that were purchased before 2018 and into 2019 and are marching toward obsolescence. In order to roll out the 5G networks, cellular providers have to retire 3G networks and free up as much bandwidth as possible. 

While Verizon isn’t shutting down its 3G network until the end of 2022, T-Mobile’s sunset date will arrive as soon as October 2021. AT&T’s date is February 2022, and Sprint has set its 3G expiration for December 2022. 

For many fleets, the impulse to avoid this transition as long as possible is a strong one, but that might not be the wisest strategy. If many fleets procrastinate  to avoid a disruptive transition, there could be a shortage of equipment from vendors or lack of customer service personnel to assist should an integration go awry. 

But some fleets may not have a choice. Depending on when a fleet’s GPS devices’ network subscription requires renewal, some cellular providers may force fleets to upgrade before these deadlines, since they’re no longer accepting new 3G subscriptions. 

What carriers are sure to find from the upgrade, no matter when they pursue it, is extended coverage in rural areas, faster connections and easier integrations with other technologies. Fleets might also use the transition to 4G/LTE as an opportunity to switch providers. 

Phil McGuire, president of Texas-based McGuire Transportation, in an interview with FreightWaves shared that although he’d partnered with his previous vendor for several years, he wasn’t satisfied halfway through the contract. After hearing more about PowerFleet’s product offerings, he decided to switch vendors and purchase PowerFleet’s LV-300 asset-tracking device for McGuire’s 350 dry van trailers. 

This 4G/LTE tracking technology provides McGuire’s fleet continuous real-time visibility, accurate arrival and departure times, as well as high-frequency communication with both dispatchers and end-customers. 

“PowerFleet’s offerings fit my budget and they put out a very good product,” said McGuire. “With the old vendor, I only received one update a day. With PowerFleet, I will receive five-minute-increment updates and anytime the truck’s moving. I get a lot more basic tracking data from them. We’re able to keep up with our trucks and dispatch them a lot more efficiently. We know exactly where they are and why they were put there.”

Because McGuire Transportation is a short-haul carrier and relies on drop-and-hook freight, its trucks make a couple deliveries a day, and it needed more than one daily update. 

McGuire is about halfway through the installation process, which he said hasn’t been too difficult since his equipment returns to the home terminal fairly often. The technicians swapping the devices told McGuire that the LV-300 is very easy to install. 

To those carriers who are wary about making the move to 4G/LTE, McGuire said, “There’s a cost involved, but the efficiency is going to outweigh the cost. We have customers calling all the time and asking, ‘How many trailers do you have here?’ Now we’ll be able to know. Before we didn’t have that availability at all.”

 To learn more about how to put a 4G/LTE migration plan together, visit PowerFleet’s website.

Corrie White

Corrie is fascinated how the supply chain is simultaneously ubiquitous and invisible. She covers freight technology, cross-border freight and the effects of consumer behavior on the freight industry. Alongside writing about transportation, her poetry has been published widely in literary magazines. She holds degrees in English and Creative Writing from UNC Chapel Hill and UNC Greensboro.