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Data demystified: The continuing evolution of truck telematics

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Jason Morgan is the editor of Fleet Equipment. He has more than 14 years of B2B journalism experience covering the likes of trucking and construction equipment, real estate, movies and craft beer industries.

It marches ever onward, growing, adapting, evolving. The rapid progress of today’s technology is like a force of nature. Yet, for all its growing complexity, it becomes more approachable and more applicable. That was the big takeaway from the American Trucking Associations’ (ATA) Management Conference and Exhibition (MC&E) held last month in Philadelphia. Data-driven technology solutions are no longer an intangible enigma. Today’s data solutions are being put to work in a way that even the latest of technology adopters can understand.

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Check out a few of the headlines from the show: PeopleNet partners with Samsung for mobility solutions; Omnitracs unveils data-driven navigation solution; Vigillo introduces JUST to address CSA scoring inaccuracies; Mack introduces Certified Uptime Centers aimed at maximizing uptime. All of those headlines offer a measurable value proposition—phones in drivers’ hands, trucks on the right route, lower CSA scores and more uptime. No longer are fleet managers left to figure out their own data-driven solutions to improve the equipments’ profitability.

“Fleet managers are looking for a number of different things that are driving and changing the requirements for telematics systems, logging systems and fleet mobility systems,” said Brian McLaughlin, president of PeopleNet. “We’ve seen a real push to analytics, or prognostics, taking the ocean of data and putting it together in a meaningful manner through reports and dashboards, but more importantly, key predictive decision tools to predict things like which driver types are more likely to have an accident or which truck is more likely to breakdown. It’s taking all these data parameters and starting to drive those so that fleet managers don’t drown in the ocean of data that’s out there.”

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The first step is identifying any equipment productivity issues or shortcomings and the next step is addressing them. That’s where over-the-air updates come in. The idea is to be able to update the truck’s software systems over cellular networks as the truck is on its way to its destination.

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“When you look at all the systems that can benefit from over-the-air updates as opposed to having updates occur while a vehicle is in maintenance, the number is big already and growing quickly—telematics systems, navigation systems, primary vehicle systems like engine and transmission controllers—and those are all software driven,” explained Jimmy Fortuna, vice president of product management with Omnitracs. “That’s important to us as a software company. We want to enable that for fleet managers so they can yield the most value out of their equipment assets and their productivity and manage cost and risk as well.”

The final piece of the puzzle is using a data-driven solution to minimize downtime. When there’s a problem with your truck, the profitability of that asset is often in the hands of the dealer service team. That’s why Mack Trucks introduced its Certified Uptime Center designation. These centers will feature “uptime bays” reserved specifically for trucks with service and repair tasks requiring less than four hours of work. Customers with vehicles needing a quick repair will be rapidly diagnosed, serviced and returned to work, the OE explained at a press conference.

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“Technology is extremely important when trying to drive improved uptime,” Mack Trucks President Stephen Roy told Fleet Equipment. “Our focus is changing the way our dealers operate and moving them to an Uptime Certified location which is not a first-in, first-out structure. It’s looking at the type of repair order and putting the right technician on the job for that repair order.”

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