There are plenty of unknowns facing the heavy-duty trucking industry, but there is one certainty: We’re staring down the barrel of an unprecedented market downturn. Not a fun fact to face, but a very real one. Both FTR and ACT Research agree that tough times are ahead.
Asset utilization, fuel efficiency and adapting service best practices to current operations will be the difference between fleets that come out of the downturn on top and those who have to play catch-up with the market turns. So how do you do it?
Here’s one idea: The ELD requirement may have been a headache last year, but now your fleet is flush with operational data from the devices that most likely collect far more data than hours of service info. It’s time to look at the data, find your equipment management weaknesses and then act on the info to step up your business game.
But there’s no silver bullet. Each fleet’s needs are different. So here’s a collage of ideas culled from a bevy of interviews I tackled during quarantine after launching our new video interview series Fleet Equipment Unscripted. Here’s what the people who are far smarter than me had to say about how to use your data for equipment management good.
Focus on fuel efficiency
Tim Bigwood, Noregon System chief executive officer:
“If you focus on issues that are impacting fuel efficiency, you should resolve those before they become a huge problem. Diesel prices may be down now, but who knows how long that is going to last? And if you focus on fuel efficiency now, not only will you have that compounded savings, but you’ll be a more efficient operation in the long run. The hours of service requirements are going to come back into play, and you need to make sure that your fleet maximizes efficiency across the board, not just during peak times.”
Start with trying to reduce idle time and increase time spent in cruise for a quick fuel efficiency bump.
Improve asset utilization
Ash Makki, product marketing manager for uptime services and connectivity with Volvo Trucks North America:
“Now is the time for fleet managers to focus on the heart of the truck: The powertrain components. And remote diagnostics is low-hanging fruit. For example, the NOx sensor in the aftertreatment system. If that is triggered, it could derate the engine and flag a red fault code. You have about an hour to three hours to respond to that fault code and avoid the breakdown. We’ll notify the fleet manager about the severity and an action plan. Another example: low coolant levels. Remote diagnostics will notify on severity there too, and if it’s not severe, the truck could continue to make its delivery and we’d alert the fleet manager to enable them to make a maintenance appointment before its next cycle.”
Bring a DVIR-type process to your equipment management plan
Kevin Aries, head of global product success for Verizon Connect:
“DVIRs are a regulatory requirement, but we’re starting to see the same idea of preparedness checklists that show the 10 data points that you have to look at and applying that to equipment and asset management. That’s critical for fleets that can’t afford to not have their equipment functioning as productively and efficiently as they need. A preparedness tool will offer the data that is going to help fill any gaps in efficiencies.”
The two things you need to integrate data sets
Sherry Calkins, Geotab vice president of strategic partners:
“If platforms don’t have an API interface, it makes it difficult to be able to integrate. That’s the number one consideration. Secondly, security. We do vetting on the security side to let our partners know where they may be lacking in security in order to move up to the integration level.”
Build a better truck service plan
Dave Walters, senior solutions engineer for Trimble Transportation:
“Previous repair history is mission critical. So, if we’ve worked on that system on a vehicle before or that component on the vehicle in the past, being able to readily get access to that data, share that information with the service provider, then we’d know that we were in a chronic repair situation. For example, knowing that it’s the sixth time that we’ve adjusted the brakes on this trailer in the last 120 days – that’s meaningful information. A simple brake adjustment isn’t fixing the problem, and we might have a bad slack adjuster. Having that repair history and being able to share that with the vendor performing the repair work can be mission critical to finally getting a resolution to the issue warranty.”