The telematics revolution

The truck telematics revolution

It’s hard to believe that years ago, “technology” inside a cab meant it came with a CB radio. Today, those same cabs have onboard telematics systems that relay information from the drivetrain to help keep track of fuel economy, speed, driving habits—pretty much anything related to the trip.

OEMs have been paying attention to this telematics revolution and are seeking out companies that can provide their trucks with the latest in technology. Recently, Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) became a minority investor in Zonar Systems, earning Martin Daum, chief executive officer of DTNA, a seat on its board of directors.

“By purchasing a minority stake in Zonar, DTNA aims to strengthen an already-existing partnership with a key collaborator in its efforts to deliver new connected truck offerings,” said Greg Treinen, the sales and marketing manager for Detroit Connect, a DTNA brand. “This investment in Zonar will help advance those efforts by accelerating development of new products, such as applications focused on increasing fuel economy and safety, and delivering those products to our customers quickly.”

Since 2011, Zonar has been supplying Daimler’s Virtual Technician system, which provides a technical snapshot of the powertrain’s status as soon as the Check Engine light comes on and sends it to company technicians, who then arrange for it to be fixed at the nearest dealership with the necessary parts to make the repairs. The system comes off the line with all new Daimler trucks with Detroit engines.

“DTNA can utilize Zonar’s strengths in developing applications to the market much more quickly than without them,” Treinen said. “We can use our knowledge of our trucks and powertrain and combine that with their expertise in connected truck application development to deliver solutions to our customers as the market demands them.”

Volvo Trucks, meanwhile, has begun a partnership with Omnitracs, which Volvo says will allow the telematics company to “develop future fleet management services” for the company. Though details about those services are still under wraps, they could range from vehicle and driver performance data to helping fleets control costs and increase safety.

“Volvo Trucks’ strategy has been to partner with best-in-class fleet management providers,” said Conal Deedy, Volvo’s director of connected vehicle services. “Omnitracs has a long history and strong reputation in telematics services for Class 8 vehicles, and many of our customers are already Omnitracs customers so it is a very good fit.”

“This relationship with Omnitracs will advance our connected vehicle strategy by opening the door to another leading provider of services to help our customers run their businesses more efficiently,” Conal Deedy, Volvo Trucks’ director of connected vehicle services, said in a statement.

This comes just months after Volvo invested in Peloton Technologies, provider of a truck platooning system that is an integrated safety, efficiency and analytics platform that builds on advanced safety technologies such as collision mitigation and adaptive cruise control systems.

Interestingly, despite the telematics advances made by many OEMs (and the resources of said OEMs), the companies have elected to pair up with existing telematics providers rather than supply their own.

“The advantage of the Omnitracs partnership is that we are able to incorporate their strengths – delivering location-based services such as dispatch, regulatory services and integrations into the customer business processes – with Volvo’s knowledge and expertise in accessing robust vehicle data from our Volvo Remote Diagnostics telematics system,” said Deedy. “Together we’re adding value to the data through services tailored to our customers’ operational needs.”

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