Watch Now

Why should truckers upgrade 3G devices soon?

AskWaves finds out what cellular providers plan to do with their old networks and why it could result in violations

The clock is ticking for truckers to upgrade to 5G devices or face possible hours-of-service violations if their 3G devices malfunction. Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves

Time is running out for trucking companies to upgrade or replace third-generation mobile devices to 5G services because the major cellular providers say there’s no plans to postpone deadlines to sunset 3G devices. Failure to do so could result in truckers getting dinged for hours-of-service violations if logging devices can’t function properly.

AT&T, which plans to end its 3G wireless network on Feb. 22, has been communicating with business customers for nearly three years about transitioning to 4G LTE or 5G networks before its 3G sunsetting deadline.

“This will help free up spectrum to better accommodate next generation technologies and services,” an AT&T spokesperson told FreightWaves.

Less than 1% of AT&T’s mobile data traffic runs on 3G networks, the company said. 

Since rolling out its 5G network in July 2020, AT&T now covers more than 250 million people in nearly 500 markets in the U.S.

Other major cellular providers, including Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon also plan to stick to the current deadlines:

  • Sprint 3G (T-Mobile): March 31, 2022.
  • Sprint LTE (T-Mobile): June 30, 2022.
  • T-Mobile 3G: July 1, 2022.
  • Verizon 3G: Dec. 31, 2022.

“Moving customers who are on old networks onto modern, advanced high-speed networks means they will need to have phones and devices that can tap into the latest technologies and don’t rely on older ones,” T-Mobile, which bought out Sprint in 2020, stated on its website.

“T-Mobile already covers 210 million people nationwide with Ultra Capacity 5G and 310 million with Extended Range 5G,” a T-Mobile spokesperson told FreightWaves.

In an article about the sunsetting of 3G technology, Verizon Vice President Mike Haberman wrote that his company has been working with businesses to migrate remaining 3G customers to new devices and technology. 

More than 99% of Verizon’s customers are using 4G LTE or 5G, with less than 1% still accessing the 3G network, Haberman said.

FMCSA alerts truckers

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued two reminders to truck drivers in November about mobile carriers sunsetting 3G technology, including ELDs, dash cams, trailer tracking devices, and urged drivers to make the switch as soon as possible to avoid racking up potential ELD violations.

“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,” FMCSA said.

The trucking regulator stated that if a provider no longer supports a 3G device, it will trigger a malfunction code on a driver’s ELD. If this occurs, the driver has eight days to get the malfunction resolved or to find a replacement device, unless an extension is granted.

Other cellular carriers, such as Cricket, Boost, Straight Talk, and several Lifeline mobile service providers that utilize the AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile networks will also be affected once the 3G wireless networks have been phased out.

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Clarissa Hawes

FMCSA to truckers: Is your ELD slated to be phased out?
FMCSA warns carriers on ELD data-services shutdown

Clarissa Hawes

Clarissa has covered all aspects of the trucking industry for 14 years. She is an award-winning journalist known for her investigative and business reporting. Before joining FreightWaves, she wrote for Land Line Magazine and If you have a news tip or story idea, send her an email to [email protected]