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Handling remote diagnostic service notifications effectively to boost uptime

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There’s no doubt that today’s advanced telematics systems are improving vehicle uptime. Along with providing information that helps streamline operations, these solutions are proving to be a critical part of eliminating guesswork about the severity of events requiring service.

By notifying drivers and fleet managers instantly, telematics systems indicate fault code severity levels and allow for more informed decisions about whether a truck is inoperable and a service event should be started immediately. Similarly, they can point to whether service is needed as soon as possible or if it can wait until the next PM interval.

“By categorizing alerts in three levels—service it later, service it soon and service it now—events are addressed quickly and efficiently,” says David Dole, director of aftermarket service operations at Detroit. “Just as importantly, those notifications inform the fleet’s managers whether or not they have to stop in the middle of a delivery to service a vehicle, or if can be performed safely at a later time.”

“Connectivity makes a difference to our customers and their operations,” says Ash Makki, Volvo Trucks North America’s product marketing manager. “We’ve received strong acceptance of telematics technology from fleet managers, who have embraced this faster, more efficient way to support peak performance and maximize uptime.”

Getting ahead of issues

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Andrew Dondlinger, Navistar’s vice president and general manager of connected services, says the idea is to get ahead of issues; to be proactive as opposed to reactive. “For the highest level of severity, a truck may be inoperable, although there can be enough time to get it into the shop,” he explains. “However, if you’re staying on top of fault codes, you should likely never have that experience.”

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With International engines, Dondlinger relates, there are three levels of indication—service immediately, service soon and stop now. There are about 30,000 fault codes but only a few require the truck to be stopped immediately, he adds. Otherwise they can wait for the next PM.

On trucks with PACCAR engines, a yellow lamp indicates an emissions-related fault. The truck can usually be driven safely in those cases, but will need service to fix the issue. Lamps that indicate oil or fuel pressure measurements outside acceptable limits mean that service is needed soon.

When measurements reach a maximum or minimum threshold in a PACCAR engine, a red stop engine light illuminates and the driver gets an audible alert as well. That indicates a serious engine system problem that needs to be corrected immediately. If driving continues over time, the condition could worsen and result in an engine derate or possibly cause serious damage.

Brian Daniels, manager of Detroit powertrain and component product marketing, says that roughly one quarter of faults recommend that the driver stop the truck immediately. “The benefit of a tiered fault code system is that most vehicles are able to report issues before they are forced to pull over,” he adds, “so the driver and the fleet are notified before critical faults cause larger problems.”

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Detroit’s remote diagnostic system categorizes fault events in three classifications:

  • Service Now indicates critical events that should be addressed within 24 hours. Those can include engines that have exceeded the highest safe RPM level or very high soot levels that require a regen.
  • Service Soon events are less critical, typically indicating the vehicle should be looked at within 72 hours. Those types of events can include very low battery voltage or a diesel particulate filter that has high hydrocarbon content.
  • Service Info indications are for the least critical events, usually something like a regulatory fault or a driveability issue that should be addressed at the next preventative maintenance interval.

Volvo engines with remote diagnostics identify issues as red, indicating that service is needed immediately, or yellow for things that can be addressed at the next PM or when the truck is available for service. An example of a red case might be an emissions systems issue, which if not addressed in a timely manner will cause the truck to go into a derate condition to prevent further damage.

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Universally, remote diagnostics is the capability of pulling diagnostic-related data from the vehicle through a telematics device. For fleets with a mix of telematics systems, most service recommendations are the same, but each manufacturer will note what should be done about a fault independent of the telematics provider.

“We provide raw data and rely on our OEM partners to translate that into severity codes,” says Scott Sutarik, associate vice president of commercial vehicle solutions at Geotab. “For example, Geotab’s GO device delivers information when an engine system fault occurs, including fault descriptions and severity. This information can be sent through a mobile app, email or other web service.”

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Dave Covington, chief technology officer at Noregon, notes that the company uses a color-coded system to illustrate severity levels. JPRO, its in-shop diagnostic and repair solution, utilizes red, yellow and green indicators while the asset management application TripVision adds an orange severity level.

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“Green means there are no active issues, yellow and orange indicate an issue that may not be immediately detrimental to the vehicle but does require attention,” Covington explains further. “Red reveals the presence of a problem that, in most cases, means the truck is at risk of a breakdown or other serious malfunction. Our staff of ASE-certified technicians has created descriptions for TripVision that explain what will likely happen if the vehicle continues to operate in its current condition.”

Another key aspect of remote diagnostics systems is their ability to integrate with fleet management solutions. With Detroit’s remote diagnostics system, Virtual Technician, for example, service insights are sent via email and the Detroit Connect Portal.

“That allows for consistent reporting however the fleet wants to receive the information,” Detroit’s Daniels says. “Our remote diagnostics system can also export data into a fleet’s maintenance management software at a fleet level or for an individual vehicle.”

With Virtual Technician, Service Now events are forwarded to a customer support center. In those cases, a remote diagnostics report is generated that determines parts required for the repair and the closest location, which is notified should the fleet decide to send the vehicle to that service facility.

In Kenworth’s TruckTech+ Remote Diagnostics system, fault data, along with service information and potential causes are sent via email to customers through the PACCAR Solutions Remote Diagnostics Portal. If the truck needs immediate service, the system maps the locations of the three closest repair facilities.

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In addition, TruckTech+ Remote Diagnostics data is sent to a secure web portal where the fleet manager can review the identified issue and recommended solution. Information in the reports can also be filtered by chassis, severity, make, model and year.

With SmartLinq Remote Diagnostics, Peterbilt provides service alerts and dealership connectivity. The system is factory installed on all Peterbilt Class 8 truck models. The OEM has also integrated Reasoning Engine Technology, which gathers and analyzes information from SmartLinq enabled trucks so fleets anticipate problems and improve repair responsiveness.

“With Volvo Remote Diagnostics, fleets and dealers have access to customized repair information, not generic instructions,” Makki says. “Remote Diagnostics events also create cases in our ASIST service management platform and there are integrations available with many of the major fleet maintenance systems on the market.”

Fleets operating Volvo trucks can also use the Volvo ASIST mobile app. If the Remote Diagnostics system indicates an issue requiring immediate attention, Makki explains, a case can be initiated directly on a mobile device. Fleet managers can also use a mapping feature to pull up the vehicle’s precise location and find a nearby Volvo Certified Uptime Center or dealership.

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Navistar’s OnCommand Connection system can be integrated with any major fleet management software. “The system not only monitors and manages fault codes,” Dondlinger says, “but by sharing information, fleets can more effectively take action on critical faults and make more informed choices for maximum productivity.”

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