The telematics technology is allowing UPS to move from preventive maintenance to a just-in-time, condition-based maintenance platform where each truck will eventually issue its own "health report," says Spencer.
In the past, like most fleets, UPS scheduled vehicle maintenance by time-dependent factors. By maintaining fleet vehicles based on the actual condition of key mechanical components, Spencer says UPS has been able to use fewer resources, increase efficiency of maintenance operations, minimize vehicle downtime and improve vehicle repairs and maintenance. This, in turn, has advanced vehicle reliability by reducing on-road breakdowns and helped lower the cost of maintenance, as well as life cycle costs.
When that rare breakdown does occur, UPS does a complete investigation to determine why it occurred and how it can be prevented, Reidy points out. If necessary, changes are then made to maintenance and repair procedures.
The telematics systems give technicians detailed visibility of vital mechanical and electrical functions on each vehicle - daily, without always having to take the vehicle out of service and bring it to the shop, Reidy explains. This enables UPS to determine much more accurately the right time to bring trucks into the shop for repair and maintenance, and when to place a truck that is beginning to perform less efficiently on a shorter route.
By way of example, Reidy cites a delivery van that reported a potential problem with the diesel particulate filter (DEF). Using the telematics system, it was discovered that the truck's route was not long enough for the engine to generate enough heat to regenerate the filter. Rather than working on the DEF system, the truck was simply shifted to a route with higher mileage.
At present, UPS replaces a starter approximately about every two years, whether a vehicle does 150 stops a day or 30 stops a day. With the touch of a keyboard button, telematics allows technicians to base the replacement decision instead on things like the actual cycles of each starter and the amount of voltage it draws when it is used.
The telematics system also helped UPS determine that in some cases it was replacing fuel injectors when all that was needed was the replacement of inexpensive O-rings, notes Steve McCarriher, a long-time UPS fleet mechanic at the Baltimore terminal. "That saves a lot of time and expense.
"With the Telematics, we don't replace components and parts that don't need to be replaced anymore."
In addition, he says the system gives UPS better insight into problems that a driver might not even be aware of, such as a problem with injection pressure or the cooling system.
The Telematics system is also helping to increase tire life through tire monitoring; lengthen the useful life of parts, including lead acid batteries; and decrease the disposal of parts, Reidy says. The bottom line: UPS is getting more useful life out of its trucks with lowered life cycle costs. Once trucks reach the end of their service at UPS, they are scrapped.
At the start of their shifts, technicians first check driver vehicle inspection reports. Then they log into the telematics system using computers in the shop and check their group of assigned vehicles. Any trucks that have experienced mechanical problems are flagged in the telematics program, with the time and duration of each issue noted.
To help technicians better diagnose the problems, the system provides a "heads-up" as to the possible causes of the problem, along with a troubleshooting decision tree of suggested fixes. Problems are prioritized according to their severity.
"That's a real benefit and time-saver for us technicians," says McCarriher. "By having all that information, we can often fix a package car on the line (where it is spotted for loading each night) rather than having to move it to the shop. Having a truck in the shop can cause a lot of pressure because our trucks are on a tight delivery schedule."
As technology improves and prices drop, fleets now have plenty of providers and options to choose from