Charles Arsenault knows a thing or two about vehicle service information. After all, his company, Arsenault Associates, has been selling its Dossier Fleet Maintenance Management Software to fleets of all sizes and shapes for 30 years now. So, when Arsenault addressed his Dossier Users' Group meeting recently to talk about his predictions of how vehicle service information will be used in the future, we at Fleet Maintenance magazine took notice, and asked him to elaborate on his predictions for our readers.
"We were fleet people who got into the software business, as compared to software people who got into the fleet business," Arsenault explains of his start in the software business back in 1979. "Thirty years later, we've served over 4,000 fleets, with literally tens of thousands of users."
Back in the day, when Arsenault worked for Hertz Heavy-Duty Truck Rental and Leasing, he kept dealing with customers whose fleet efficiency was hampered by what he describes as "Ignorance and lack of organization." Many had no idea what their cost-per-mile was; some didn't even know how many trucks they owned.
"My expertise was in the organization of information and data," Arsenault explains. "If a fleet has enough information, they can compare, they can test, they can capture warranties, they can schedule PM services when they need them, etc. But you can't measure what you can't count."
And so Arsenault went into the counting business, and today, 30 years later, with the amount of vehicle information that is available to fleet maintenance managers exploding exponentially, counting and measuring is more important than ever.
"In order to manage your assets, it takes so many details that it's very difficult to do manually," Arsenault says. "Automating the process of collecting data is what we're all about. The more we can automate this, and do away with human intervention, the better the quality of maintenance being performed, because the manager can then focus on hands-on issues. It will show you trending, and things of that nature, so you can see what's going on very quickly, without needing to get knee-deep in trying to write down and capture every detail; it comes directly from the vehicles themselves, so the vehicles report their own issues.
According to Arsenault, vehicle information is being used in a very rudimentary way at present. DOT vehicle inspectors require a PM service schedule, and proof, in the form of repair orders, that the PM was performed on time. "You also have to have your vehicles numbered, for identification purposes; in other words, to identify your assets," he says. "And you must have repair orders that show that driver complaints have been addressed. These are the kinds of things that auditors go in and look for."
"Now, we have to fill out repair orders, but the government now allows electronic repair orders. And they're accepting electronic processes of scheduling preventive maintenance and the like. So, electronic forms of documentation are being accepted more and more by the states and by the Feds.
"That's the beginning stage, where we are today," Arsenault says.
"We'll be seeing more and more roadside inspections where the onboard computers, and the data that's able to be brought back out from them, will be more and more accepted, over the driver's log.
"The same with equipment faults. When a vehicle now has a full-unit bus, where they can completely sense just about anything on the vehicle, with those DOT inspections, some things will be electronically reviewed, rather than manually, so that they can get more vehicles through that inspection station. The same thing will apply with road-side inspections.
"Of course, some things will still need to be manually calibrated--brake pads, tread depth, those sorts of things--however, we can see certain other technologies coming forward, such as on-board tire pressure monitoring systems. These will be mandatory very soon, just as they are in automobiles. Tires are such a high-cost item and directly relate to fuel economy; hence, the government will be using more and more of that in the process of ‘greening' America.