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What is a Mobile Data Terminal?

By J.M. Densing
Updated May 23, 2024
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A mobile data terminal (MDT) is a portable computer device that is mounted in a vehicle to allow digital communications between the vehicle and a central office. These devices are commonly used in industries where large fleets of cars or trucks need to be in contact with a dispatcher. Mobile data terminals often a have a variety of capabilities and features to assist the vehicle operator in accessing necessary information.

The mobile data terminal consists of a display screen with some control buttons mounted within easy reach of the driver, often somewhere on the dashboard. Proper mounting is important for ease of use. The mobile data terminal needs to be positioned where it does not interfere with driving or any of the accessory controls, while still being easy to read and respond to information on the display. Many mobile data terminals also include keyboards for input and two-way communications capabilities.

The primary use of the mobile data terminal is for communications between large fleets of vehicles and a dispatcher at a central location. The devices are used in a variety of fleets including taxis, police cars, buses, delivery service trucks, and emergency vehicles. They allow the dispatcher to send information to the driver, such as location information, maps, and directions, without requiring the use of a radio.

Some models of mobile data terminal also have a GPS feature which allows the dispatcher to monitor the locations of all the vehicles on the road. This can assist the dispatcher in selecting vehicles for various assignments based on their location at the time. It can also help the dispatcher direct vehicles around traffic congestion or hazardous conditions.

Mobile data terminals also enable drivers to communicate with the dispatcher. Drivers can request information about assignments, alternate instructions in case of unforeseen problems, or assistance if their vehicles break down. This feature is especially useful for police officers who often need to report information about traffic stops and check data about stolen cars, suspects, or other issues. Mobile data terminals are also helpful to emergency services personnel like EMTs to relay information about cases back to a central office or medical control.

A mobile data terminal is a flexible device that can be configured to meet the needs of the user. Some common options include modems and back-up power supplies. The display screens and keyboards are built to withstand the harsh treatment that may occur in a moving vehicle. These devices are designed to enhance communication and allow fleets to operate more efficiently.

WikiMotors is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon345622 — On Aug 20, 2013

I'm a PI who needs to learn more about MDT's and whether a particular police organization uses them and that history of use. Meaning, if they use them, when did they start, is their system complete or do only particular cars use the MDT's and son and so on. Anyone know how to research that?

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