How will electric trucks impact your service operation?

How will electric trucks impact your service operation?

One of the biggest potential operational efficiency gain bullet points when OEMs and suppliers talk about electric trucks is the potential for less maintenance compared to diesel trucks. In theory, it might be true. Eliminate the diesel engine and a good amount of service headaches are gone. No oil changes to tackle, coolant leaks to patch or aftertreatment systems to diagnose. It’s conceivable to think the tires would be the foremost preventative maintenance touch point for the electric vehicles.

That’s great in theory, but theory rarely matches up to reality, especially on the open road. The real answer to the question is: We don’t know. But you can be sure that OEMs, suppliers and fleets are going to find out.

“We certainly hope it’s going to be less maintenance,” said Paul Rosa, senior vice president of procurement and fleet planning at Penske. “When you take off the engine, the transmission, the differential, the wheels—you would expect that it’s going to be less. That’s what we’re all planning for. It’s going to be different dealing with multiple electric motors and torque converters and load on the batteries, but we still have to deal with seats and windshield wipers and mirrors, and all these other types of things. It’s shifting our focus on what we have to be prepared for, and that is part of the learning for us.”

Penske Truck Leasing is on the cutting edge of electric truck operation. The company took delivery of Daimler Trucks North America’s (DTNA) first electric vehicle—a Freightliner eM2—as a part of the Freightliner Electric Innovation Fleet, and the impact on service was evident early on.

“I would say that the big thing that we recognize is that it’s a whole different level of service technician,” explained Roger Nielsen, DTNA president and chief executive officer. “The person that has spent a career as a diesel tech now has to advance his or her skills to become a high-voltage troubleshooting technician. We’re seeing that the level of service support, in terms of training, needs to increase.”

“We have a comprehensive program already underway that is ready to be adapted to additional electric truck lessons,” Rosa said, “but where we are going to be placing the vehicles that we’re getting from Daimler—those multiple locations are going to be going through special training.

“The training is obviously geared toward high-voltage activity,” he continued. “We want to make sure that the facility is safe, as well, to handle the vehicle. We want to be sure the technicians are properly trained. So there is a specific program that we will be taking them through. There will be a number of them on site that will be certified.”

Rosa went on to explain that Penske Truck Leasing will have a number of technicians at each location designated to servicing the Freightliner eM2 as it rolls into service.

“Of course, we will adapt that training and roll that out as more locations get vehicles as this continues to grow in popularity and viability,” Rosa said. “We’re well prepared with safety equipment in the shop and special tooling in the shop, as well as the additional high-voltage knowledge that has to be transferred to the technicians.”

For the heavy-duty service skeptics shaking your heads right now: it’s true that electric truck technology has a lot to prove, but both equipment manufacturers and fleets are putting their R&D money where their mouths are, and the industry’s overall interest in the technology is at a high enough level that you will want to start talking with those within your fleet—from your fleet manager to your technicians—to ensure that you’re ready for electric trucks.

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