Bryan Lewis, 2007 and 2008 TMCSuperTech Grand Champion and instructor at Southside Virginia Community College, shows a student how to use JPRO Fleet Diagnostics on a heavy duty vehicle.
Photo credit: Photo courtesy of Noregon Systems
The right fleet maintenance software can transform shops from cost centers into revenue generators.
Photo credit: Photo courtesy of TMW Systems
While technology can improve many aspects of vehicle maintenance, some functions, like vehicle inspections, are still best performed by trained personnel.
Photo credit: Photo courtesy of DEKRA
There has been increased interest in the improved operational efficiency and productivity realized from implementing vehicle telematics. Telematics, fundamentally, is the blending of computers and wireless telecommunications technologies, with the goal of efficiently conveying information over vast networks to improve business functions and services.
Initially, vehicle telematics revolved around using global positioning satellite (GPS) tracking to monitor, in real-time, the location and activity of vehicles, as well as driving behavior. Combined with fleet management technology, fleets had information that could be used to reduce operational costs and improve customer service.
Over time, vehicle telematics and fleet management technology evolved to be able to provide real-time vehicles diagnostics, allowing fleet service professionals to address vehicle issues proactively.
Telematics systems can track and wirelessly report how a particular vehicle is being operated and how that affects its “health.” These systems also report vehicle fault codes that indicate repair needs and event codes that could indicate operator abuse. This information can then be used to adjust appropriately the vehicle’s preventive maintenance schedule. These systems also report vehicle fault codes that indicate repair needs and event codes that could indicate operator abuse.
DeCarolis Truck Rental of Rochester, NY, needed to improve visibility into the maintenance side of its business. The company provides transportation resources and solutions to more than 1,000 customers from various industries across Western and Central New York.
The main objective was to improve the way maintenance was managed in order to find areas of operational cost savings and regular maintenance efficiencies, says Ken Anderson, director of operations, at DeCarolis Truck Rental. The company also wanted to know what was happening with its trucks when customers leased or rented them.
Furthermore, it wanted to track general wear and tear, avoid breakdowns, improve maintenance schedules and ensure the drivers were operating its trucks responsibly and safely.
In researching options to meet these business objectives, DeCarolis Truck Rental decided to go with FleetKnowSys from Vnomics, a leading provider of Intelligent Telematics software for the commercial trucking and government vehicle sectors. The hardware for FleetKnowSys was installed onto its trucks.
“FleetKnowSys operates by intelligently knowing what information to use and how to deliver decision-supporting recommendations instantly, clearly and effectively at the most opportune time,” explains Ed McCarthy, vice president of engineering at Vnomics.“This helps to maximize returns relating to significantly reducing fuel consumption; ensuring truck and driver safety; effectively minimizing unnecessary truck wear and tear; minimizing downtime with instantaneous reporting of diagnostic trouble codes; and staying in compliance.
“FleetKnowSys identifies every opportunity to reduce operating costs in real time,” he says.
“Having FleetKnowSys in place has given us the crucial visibility we need to know for what is happening with our assets at all times,” DeCarolis Truck Rental’s Anderson says.
“Having the ability to monitor truck performance and driver behavior in real-time has been invaluable for reducing our maintenance expenses and our risk and liability exposure, and we have an overall understanding of how our assets are being used.”
FleetKnowSys has also enabled the company’s customers to reduce fuel consumption, thus increasing their fuel savings - “all in real-time when the opportunity to save is optimized,” he notes.
With the Vnomics Intelligent Telematics software, DeCarolis Truck Rental can track numerous subsystem components and be alerted, via trouble codes, when a component either has an urgent issue that needs immediate attention or has indications of a future problem that can wait until the next servicing date or a stop at a maintenance facility for evaluation.
“The ability to predict issues before they occur is priceless in our business,” says Jeremy Ayres, director of sales at DeCarolis Truck Rental. “Being able to avoid a breakdown or to even have a better chance of reducing the risk of an accident before it occurs allows us to confidently offer reliable, safe and high-quality assets for our customers so that their drivers, their loads and our trucks get to each destination on time and as safely as possible.”
An integral element of FleetKnowSys is its remote vehicle diagnostic system which provides fleets the ability to practice preventive and predictive maintenance to ensure truck efficiency and driver safety.
“This system tracks, records, analyzes and notifies, all in real-time, when maintenance is needed based on severity level,” David Chauncey, chief executive officer of Vnomics, says. “It also provides information on possible system malfunctions before they occur.”
This is done by monitoring, in real-time, how the truck is being operated and the resulting stress on the engine and system components. By doing so, FleetKnowSys is able to analyze and “predict” part end-of-life conditions so that service personnel can proactively schedule maintenance when necessary to avoid future truck performance issues.
When an on-the-road maintenance issue occurs, FleetKnowSys’ sensors, including those on the truck data busses, immediately detect anomalies within the truck’s systems and send out an alert to the designated fleet/maintenance personnel. They receive a detailed description of the problem, including a probable root cause, along with suggested corrective actions.
They can then determine if they should notify other stakeholders within the organization of the situation or simply keep watch of it to ensure the issue doesn’t become critical.
All information is stored within FleetKnowSys for future reference, observes Chauncey. Reports can be pulled in a variety of ways depending on what specific information is needed.
FleetKnowSys manages a vehicle’s “health” through its ability to monitor and report on thousands of measured parameters relating to the mechanical operating condition on the truck, Vnomics’ McCarthy says. This includes:
- Operating parameters, such as speed, fuel economy, temperatures, pressures, etc.
- Engine parameters, including oil system, cooling system, fuel system, etc.
- Electrical system, including battery, alternator, lights, etc.
- Drivetrain, including transmission, transfer case differential, traction control, etc.
- Others things, including brake system, air system, hydraulics, emission systems, etc.
All alert codes reflect the following information:
- Vehicle number.
- Driver name and contact information.
- GPS locations of where the alert occurred.
- Truck make, model and age.
- Last occurrence.
- Alert Code number, with a description of the issue, recommendations on how to manage it and possible causes.
- Duration of time the maintenance code/alert has been active.
Because FleetKnowSys tells fleets/maintainers what it thinks has caused the issue and recommends corrective actions to ensure the best possible outcome, they “have more time to better manage maintenance occurrences and notify the driver on how to handle the situation to minimize expenses and impacts to schedule and safety,” says McCarthy.
Additionally, if a truck was to breakdown or needed to pull over to avoid serious damage, the system’s Maintenance Manager knows exactly what the issue is and can send the appropriate technician with the right skill set, along with the needed tools and parts out to repair site. “This dramatically saves time and cost relating to the use of roadside technicians and truck servicing,” says Chauncey of Vnomics.
This level of proactive service has resulted in a reduction in the time a truck is off the road, which reassures drivers that their delivery schedules will not be compromised, DeCarolis Truck Rental Ayres.
Knowing if there is a potential truck-performance problem before it becomes a major issue allows the company to save on costly out-of-warranty repairs because it can proactively schedule maintenance during the warranty period.
Another benefit of using Vnomics’ Intelligent Telematics software is that DeCarolis Truck Rental’s customers can now efficiently track driver/truck location, save on fuel by managing driver behavior more effectively and meet all hours of service requirements, notes Ayres.
But even the best information from vehicle telematics is only useful if it is used appropriately, or at all.
To compete efficiently and make a profit in fleet maintenance, technology is no longer an option. Selecting the appropriate technology, and then turning telematics data into business critical information in real-time, is a crucial factor in an operation’s success and longevity.