As BigRoad users are probably already aware Electronic Logs are a perfectly legal alternative to traditional paper logs. However, due to a grey area in the regulations, some drivers may be asked to produce a paper record of their logs during an inspection. We also recommend that a driver have a printer available in their truck in case this happens.
Choosing the right printer for truck isn’t as straightforward as picking up a printer for home. You have to pay consideration to the type of device you have and what method it uses to connect to the printer. Also you will need to know if the printer has a printing app available or will you have to purchase a 3rd party app.
If you were at the NASTC Conference last week and stopped by our booth for a demo of BigRoad, you may have noticed that one of the printers we were using looked kind of neat. What this printer was the versatile, ultra-portable Brother Pocket Jet 6 (PJ663) with Bluetooth option. This printer boasts 300x300dpi resolution, a slew power options and host of available accessories. It prints on pages up to a maximum width of 8.5” and prints at a rate of 6 pages per minute.
Where’s the printer?
They say good things come in small packages. I honestly thought they had forgot to ship this printer when I first opened the shipping box. I went through the box twice until I realized I wasn’t holding the battery pack in my hand. This thing is really small!
What makes it so small is that it’s a thermal printer. So you don’t have to worry about buying expensive ink or it drying up. You do, however, need to ensure you have thermal paper and ensure you put it the right way round. Trust me it doesn’t work if you put the paper in shiny side up.
Turn on! Tune in! Printout!
For powering up the PocketJet there’s a number of options. There’s the standard AC “wall wart” power adapter, a 14.4V NiMH rechargeable battery and a 12VDC lighter adapter. Before I powered up the printer I found the installing the battery wasn’t too easy. There’s a 3 pin connector that plugs into a recessed socket at the bottom of the battery compartment; a bit tricky for my fat fumbling sausage fingers. The battery takes about 2 hours to charge and should be good for about 70 pages.
It’s important to us to test this printer as you might if you were going install it in a truck. So I decided to skip all the of installing the drivers and setting up on a computer first. Let’s just in and see if it prints from a mobile device. This is the Bluetooth model of the PocketJet so and I few android devices running BigRoad. The models used where a Nexus 4 and an OnePlus One running 4.4.4 as well as a Samsung S4 running 4.4.2.
Like setting up print drivers on a computer you need some software on device to be able to print. I already had PrinterShare installed on all the devices. It supports a lot of different printers from different manufacturers, but you do have to pay for the app. I also used the Brother iPrint&Scan app which supports a lot of Brother printers and best of all it’s completely free.
Before printing I ran into a snag connecting to Bluetooth. When trying to pair devices it asks for a 4-digit pin number to connect. Most times by default these are 0000 or 1111 but not in this case. Although not stated in the manual, a quick web search told me the PIN number is the last 4-digits or the serial number. If I had come through the computer setup I could have set my own Bluetooth PIN number.
Once I had everything set up, printing was a breeze. When you choose one of BigRoad’s print options you’ll be prompted to select your printing app and from there you can print your logs. Like I said earlier though make sure the paper is the right way up.
The print-out quality looks sharp and you don’t have to worry about smudging the ink as you would with an ink jet.
All about the accessories
One cool thing about the PocketJet series is the amount of accessories that are available for it. It’s not just a portable printer because of it’s size, Brother also offers a couple of rugged cases to house the printer and paper. These cases make them really tough unit for use in the field. They support different types of thermal paper, from rolls to sheets and fanfold. They also offer soft cases, carrying straps, high-capacity Li-ion batteries and every kind of cable you could need.
One consideration you might want to make before purchasing any printer for a trucker is it’s operating temperature range. The PocketJet has an operating temperature range of 32-104°F (0-40°C) and a storage temperature range of 5-122°F (-15-50°C). If your vehicle has to sit in any temperature extremes it’s not wise to leave it in the cab.
Overall this is a fantastic little unit if you need a go anywhere mobile printing option. I can highly recommend it – that is if you don’t balk at the price! The PocketJet 6 it not a budget model printer, with the Bluetooth option you are looking around the $400 mark.
Sadly for users iOS there isn’t an AirPrint version available so you can not print direct form the app. We did try testing the PJ-673 model, which offers wireless ad hoc connection, with an iPhone running BigRoad but found that custom software would need to be developed to get it to work. One cumbersome work around we discovered is to email your logs to yourself then downloaded the PDFs from the BigRoad web admin panel. Once you have them on your device you can switch to the printers ad hoc wireless network and use Brother’s PJ-673 Print iOS app to print them.
If you are interested in purchasing one of these printers, Brother has extended special pricing towards BigRoad users. Here are the bluetooth options that work best with the BigRoad app.
|MBSPJ662||POCKETJET 6 with BLUETOOTH ENGINE, 200-dpi, integrated USB/IrDA and Bluetooth (PocketJet Engine Only, No Battery, No Doc. Set, No Accessories, etc.)||$349.00||$305.95|
|MBSPJ662-K||POCKETJET 6 with BLUETOOTH KIT, 200-dpi, integrated USB/IrDA and Bluetooth (Includes PocketJet 6, 200-dpi printer, USB cable, AC Adapter/Charger, 110V AC Cable, Battery, 100 Sheets Letter Size Thermal Paper, Doc. Set, Roll Cleaning Sheet, and Carrying Case||$449.00||$393.95|
|MBS2207224||1-Year extended PocketJet warranty (1st year plus and additional year, for a total 2-year warranty)||$29.95||$27.95|
You can find pricing on other models and accessories here.