February 22, 2024

Truck tech impacted by AT&T outage: Here’s what’s happening


AT&T began experiencing sweeping outages of its cellular networks across the United States on Thursday morning. While mass reports of driver connectivity issues have not surfaced, back-end TMS and visibility systems are experiencing outages.

Motive, Samsara and Trimble are a few of the transportation tech platforms that reported issues, warning customers of potential problems. These systems use cellular data to track drivers’ locations, send messages and dispatch information, meaning an AT&T outage can sever that communication.

Omnitracs and Verizon Connect were some of the platforms not affected, as of press time. 

Why is a cell outage a big deal? 

ELDs piggyback on a cellular provider through the device itself or by linking with a driver’s cell phone, according to Thomas Wasson, FreightWaves’ enterprise trucking expert. 

An outage at a large nationwide provider like AT&T impacts both ELD devices and drivers whose cell phones are connected to the AT&T network, resulting in outages and potential log errors. For fleets and safety departments, log errors or omissions of hours of service can result in what appear to be falsified logs if a driver’s impacted logs are inspected and fail to account for missing time.

For carriers impacted, one way to work around the disruption is to have drivers revert to manual paper logs until service is restored. This adds the challenge to drivers of securing paper logbooks, which can result in extra costs and out-of-route miles. Afterward, drivers will need to account for that missing time in the ELD once functionality is restored.

Another challenge will be the gaps in driver position and location history, which may impact automated tracking and cause disruptions to service, as customers and freight brokers may note inaccurate location updates when determining an ETA.

Drivers themselves won’t always notice these outages, since their ELD will show the correct time, but back-office staff will likely be worried since a driver will show as a certain distance out for a few hours and not update.

It is likely that some platforms will come back throughout the day, but the impact for drivers will be seen later on.

AT&T made a statement about the widespread outage, but no cause has been identified. 

An industry source told CNN it could be related to how cellular services hand off calls from one network to another.

According to Downdector, Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas and Atlanta are a few of the major areas in the U.S. experiencing the AT&T outage.


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