December 5, 2011 9:00 AM, EST

Qualcomm Warns OEMs Are Aiming For Cut of In-Cab Electronics Market

By Greg Johnson, Staff Reporter

This story appears in the Dec. 5 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

In a federal securities filing, Qualcomm Inc. warned that some truck original equipment manufacturers and truck component makers are beginning to offer built-in, onboard fleet management and GPS devices, which could intensify competition and eventually affect the San Diego-based company’s margins.

“OEMs are looking for ways to better serve their customers and help them prosper,” said John Sarto Sr., vice president of business and product development for the Qualcomm Enterprise Services division. QES produces the company’s onboard computers and EOBRs.

“Today, nearly every fleet has the ability to pre-order with Qualcomm wiring as a result of our strong relationships with OEMs,” Sarto said in a statement to Transport Topics.

But Clement Driscoll, founder and president of C.J. Driscoll and Associates, said truck fleets may decline to be wedded to a specific device from a particular OEM because they buy tractors from different truck makers. That policy means OEMs would want to offer a broad array of device brands, Driscoll said.

For example, Mack Trucks, a unit of Volvo Group, currently offers a wide range of prep kits to provide customers flexibility in choosing different aftermarket telematics devices, said Volvo spokesman John Walsh.

And the notion that some fleet managers may want a different GPS or EOBR device may keep some truck makers from agreeing to install a certain brand, said Ken Weinberg, vice president of Carrier Logistics Inc., a Tarrytown, N.Y., supplier of transportation software.

“I see the use of this technology continuing to grow,” Weinberg said, “but I think it’s a bigger issue with competition. Customers have more choice now than they did many years ago.”

Because many fleets use more than one OEM as their tractor supplier, a truck maker’s standardizing on a single telematics platform could present a problem, said Meghan AuBuchon, director of marketing for PeopleNet Communications Corp., the Minnetonka, Minn., EOBR and in-cab communication equipment maker.

“The in-cab technology is only half the system,” AuBuchon explained. “How the data comes together and how the fleet uses the information is as critical. This cannot be done effectively if you are using three different OEMs with three different telematics systems,” she said.

Some fleets will continue to make their own decisions about which platform is best for them, AuBuchon said. “They aren’t going to let an OEM make that decision for them.”