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Digging into fleet truck diagnostics

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Digging into diagnostics: Sifting through onboard data to put fleet analytics to work

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With more vehicles “plugging in,” fleets stand to gain uptime by leveraging data from onboard computers. Telematics software collects sophisticated diagnostic information related to vehicle performance and automatically sends data related to fault codes to dealers and fleet managers.

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Some providers have integrated telematics software and maintenance management systems, while others take a more “a la carte” approach by providing a separate maintenance management system that can be integrated with most telematics systems. Whether they choose integrated or separate systems, fleets can obtain real-time insights that identify maintenance problems while the truck is on the road and what resources may be needed in the shop to address those problems. These insights are key to decreasing downtime, increasing shop efficiency and meeting the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s CSA enforcement and compliance model.

Experts analyze data

Detroit Virtual TechnicianDetroit Connect’s Detroit Virtual Technician relies on Detroit factory experts to analyze the data sent from the software to accurately identify the problem and possible solutions. “Following analysis, the parts required for repair are included in the email notification to customers and service centers nearby that have parts in stock,” said Shawn Meredith, manager of Detroit Connect. “Once a customer identifies a suitable service location, the Detroit Customer Service Center coordinates the repair. Customers who run vehicles with the advantages of Virtual Technician service benefit from a shorter overall repair time—a half day in most cases,” he added.

“The Virtual Technician’s key features include prompt email notification of mission critical fault codes from the engine, transmission and aftertreatment systems,” Meredith said. “It is the only diagnostics system in the market that takes a snapshot of the key operating metrics before, during and after a fault event to provide detailed analysis by the Detroit Customer Support engineers to determine diagnosis and remedy with improved accuracy.”

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Meredith noted that as the OEM, Detroit is in a unique position to provide sensible guidance on the fault information reported from its vehicles. In order to demonstrate the value of the Detroit Virtual Technician’s software in particular, Meredith pointed to a few features.

“Before remote diagnostics, many drivers would simply park the truck in order to avoid a potentially catastrophic engine failure when they saw a fault lamp illuminate in the dash. Virtual Technician instantly identifies the severity of a fault event and eight out of 10 times the vehicle can continue until service can be scheduled. Customers also find the greatest value in the plain language interpretation of the fault event. This allows them to make timely educated repair decisions. Avoiding even a single downtime event saves a typical fleet more than three times the annual cost of the service,” Meredith said.

Virtual Technician can also help with preventative maintenance. “Alerting a fleet manager to an engine concern allows the back office to make arrangements for the repair of a minor issue before it progresses. Providing this data assists the repair facility in deciding if other preventative measures need to be taken. Since the majority of fault events do not require immediate attention, the fleet can combine multiple non-urgent issues into one arranged service visit, thus maximizing uptime for the customer,” Meredith concluded. Virtual Technician hardware and two years of service are standard on new truck purchases.

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The Detroit Virtual Technician onboard diagnostic system is standard equipment on all Freightliner trucks and most Western Star 2015 models. This Detroit proprietary telematics system is functional on Detroit EPA 2010 and newer engines and is available as an aftermarket option.

Reducing downtime

Dave Albert, director of aftermarket solutions for Mack Trucks, noted that the reduction in down time depends on the situation. “However, our data has shown that utilizing GuardDog Connect, Mack ASIST and our Uptime Center, reduces the average diagnostic time by up to 70% and lowers the time needed for repair by more than 20%.”

Mack GuardDog Connect CommunicationMack ASIST is standard and free for two years on all new Mack Truck models. According to Mack’s Albert, “It allows customers to improve communications, manage costs, reduce downtime and increase operating efficiency because customers are able to communicate with the dealer, initiate repairs, access a complete service history, approve and monitor repair status and manage repair expenses all through an online portal. Mack OneCall is Mack’s 24/7 customer support center staffed by training support specialists. Mack GuardDog Connect, a telematics solution built upon Mack’s GuardDog maintenance monitoring system, enables diagnosis of issues, proactive scheduling for repairs and confirmation that needed parts are in stock and ready to install, all while the truck is on the road.”

He went on to say, “When GuardDog Connect detects an issue, it triggers a series of events that starts with an automatic alert to Mack OneCall, which evaluates the situation. A case is automatically opened in Mack ASIST via GuardDog Connect, eliminating the risk of manual entry errors. Customers can also create cases and inspections using QR codes that Mack installs on the driver’s side doorframe of all models during assembly.”

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Tracking these events is vital to understanding a fleet’s maintenance costs, Albert noted. “It allows a customer to better understand and manage where maintenance dollars are spent.” For that reason, customers with Mack ASIST also have the ability to pre-set maintenance requirements in ASIST. Mack ASIST then alerts them when a service is due based on the pre-set maintenance parameters.

Connect with dealers

Navistar International ProStar analyticsMark Reiter, vice president of Navistar customer support, said, “Navistar’s OnCommand system allows fleet managers to connect with dealers, receive a diagnosis and a recommended solution before a vehicle even reaches the dealership. It immediately gives fleet managers access to vehicle data and tools within the diagnostics system.” Launched in early 2014, OnCommand Connection already supports more than 50,000 trucks.”

The system is designed to increase vehicle uptime by supporting quicker repairs and controlling maintenance and repair costs. OnCommand Connection gives fleet managers access to real-time fault codes, vehicle locations, nearby dealer locations, vehicle health reports and fault code action plans within an online portal, added Reiter.

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It is also the industry’s only “open-­architecture” technology, Reiter said. “This means that the software can be integrated with most of the major telematics service providers used by trucks and bus customers.”

Since the product’s inception, Navistar has collaborated with other service providers to bolster the OnCommand Connection’s service offerings. In March, the company integrated Mitchell 1 Repair-Connect.net and in-bay service tools from Nexiq Technologies and Noregon Systems into its OnCommand Connection system. In-bay diagnostics tools integrate scanned data from vehicles into the system while Mitchel 1 Repair-Connect.net allows customers to access their repair manuals and other maintenance documents from a direct link within the OnCommand Connection portal.

“Based on the faults that are occurring on the vehicle, the dealer is able to determine the severity of the fault, type of failure—electric, engine, transmission, etc.—how long the job will most likely take, parts most likely required to fix the unit and the skill set required to fix the unit,” Reiter said.

Maximize productivity

PACCAR Parts leaves the job of communicating with vehicles to the telematics experts such as PeopleNet, FleetLynx, Qualcomm and XRS, said John Wisdom, marketing technology manager for PACCAR Parts. “PACCAR Parts concentrates on designing and configuring the Connect CMMS with interactive capabilities that can integrate with their devices,” Wisdom noted. “Connect can also work in tandem with the PacLease PacTrac on-board telematics system available to full-service leasing customers.”

PACCAR Parts ScanningThe web-based software solution offers fleets and independent service garages a comprehensive maintenance and parts inventory management tool to maximize mechanic productivity, optimize parts inventories and improve CSA compliance, said the manufacturer. It is sold through Kenworth and Peterbilt dealers throughout North America. Connect works with all makes and models of equipment. You can manage repairs and preventive maintenance services for things like construction equipment, school bus, utilities, ready mix, pick-ups and more. “Connect can communicate directly with the servers of leading fleet or fuel management systems via a secure web connection,” Wisdom said. This function can vastly improve the accuracy of mileage-dependent reports, such as ‘maintenance due’ and ‘cost per mile,’ because it eliminates the need to manually enter mileage data and provides more timely updates.”

Connect assists with preventative maintenance, Wisdom said. Company studies show that for every $1 spent in preventative maintenance, breakdown costs are reduced by $4.

Connect’s reporting capabilities automatically notify managers, dispatchers and drivers or operators when individual pieces of equipment are due for required preventive maintenance. Connect also comes preloaded with American Trucking Associations’ vehicle maintenance reporting standards (VMRS) codes, Wisdom said. This allows fleets to quickly compare and analyze the cost of repairs by using repair type, such as brakes, engine or air conditioning. Users may compare different vehicle brands, vehicle models and life-cycle maintenance costs.

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According to Wisdom, “Companies using Connect have found that they can increase labor productivity by 20% or more through real-time mechanic time scanning capability. This feature allows managers to monitor shop work at a macro level, while looking for exceptions. The system then allows managers to ‘drill down’ and examine those exceptions on a micro level—job-by-job or time entry-by-time entry.” For those leasing, PACCAR’s leasing division, PacLease, does offer PacTrac, a telematics system for its full-service leasing customers.

Record keeping

Every Volvo vehicle comes standard with two years of Volvo’s ASIST, an online service relationship management tool that stores a truck’s service history and provides service maintenance notifications (Pictured at the top of this feature). Standard with the vehicle is also 24/7 support from Volvo Action Service (VAS) agents in Volvo’s Uptime Center.

“At one glance, a customer can view their assets in ASIST and see which trucks have service operations that are due and all of the operations that are overdue,” said Wade Long, director of product marketing for Volvo Trucks North America. “Services are categorized according to VMRS codes. ASIST will notify the repairing facility if the truck is due for any service programs or campaigns to be sure that they are scheduled when a maintenance or other work is performed.”

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Volvo’s Long identifies one feature of the ASIST tool as very important to customers—with ASIST, customer can create cases and inspections using a QR code found inside the driver’s door. Long notes that this allows any customer to use any smart device to perform and log a CSA inspection.

Volvo offers on-road diagnostics as well. Once a remote diagnostics event occurs, a case is automatically opened in ASIST. The name of the game, Long remarks, is tracking and following-up. The categorization of events by VMRS codes allows fleet managers to see where they are spending their maintenance dollars. ASIST also allows them to track their downtime through timestamps throughout the repair process.

“On Remote Diagnostics cases, since the data is analyzed before the truck arrives for service and the parts list and repair instructions are sent ahead of time, we have shown an average savings of over 70% in diagnostic time and over 22% in the actual repair time,” said Long.

Measuring resources

It’s up to fleet managers to really gauge the value of these investments. Many fleets have reported a decrease in downtime and have seen these systems enable them to better organize and prioritize repairs in both on and off the road instances. Work with the service providers to dig deeper into the data and measure the effectiveness of these systems. Then, take advantage of their capabilities to gather insights that will help fleets decrease downtime, increase shop efficiency and meet CSA standards.

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