“The complexity of these trucks has grown so much—now you’re talking about multiplex wiring, dual-cam systems—it’s not just an old-fashioned diesel engine anymore,” Kinney says. “The technicians have embraced the technology for the most part, and the fleets have embraced the technology, because the more computer-savvy a fleet is and the more control they have over their fleet—specifically the engines—the better fuel consumption they’ll get. With crude oil and diesel an all-time record high, fleets are looking for any advantage they can get, and we support that.”
Having technicians who can quickly diagnose problems right in the shop is a huge financial advantage for fleets, which is the goal of Noregon’s software packages, Kinney says.
“It reduces the amount of downtime that a fleet is looking at for a specific vehicle, and they have the ability now to understand the faults that they are looking at—they don’t have to rely so heavily on the OEM dealership to run the diagnostics,” he says. “It also puts them back in control of the purchasing decisions for the replacement parts.
“They’re relying on a third party to tell them what’s wrong with the vehicle and what needs to be done to the vehicle,” Kinney says. “They almost succumb to the fact they’ve lost control of their fleet, (and say) ‘Go ahead and fix the truck, we don’t care.’ And it’s expensive, where if they have the ability to run in-house diagnostics, and they (may) find out it’s only a $60 part that’s causing the problem.”
Noregon’s diagnostic software can be used on any truck in North America and can go a long way to improve shop efficiency and accuracy, Kinney says.
“It allows technicians to evaluate the engine, transmission, brakes, bulkhead modules and instrument clusters all in one easy-to-view screen, and (you can) toggle between the systems without having to re-launch different applications,” he says. “It provides the fault code information, the look-up code information, active and inactive faults, the make, model year information, right off the truck without having to crack the hood.”
Of course, the service bay is no place for dainty laptops, so the greatest software in the world is worthless if your computer shatters into pieces after hitting the shop floor. Panasonic’s Toughbook has earned a reputation for taking whatever techs dish out and more.
Presler says according to PC Magazine’s annual readership survey, the average laptop has a failure rate of around 30 percent in a white-collar environment. In contrast, the Toughbook’s failure rate is 2 percent in the environment of a busy truck shop. The magazine listed the top three causes of failure as: getting dropped, spilling something on it or crushing the laptop somehow.
Sound like anything that could happen in your shop?
“You’re moving all around; your desk might be an engine block,” he says. “It’s a harsh environment.”
In the end, Presler says it’s all about building products that work for truck technicians.
“It is designed for a mobile technician; that’s the only reason it was built,” he says. “You can use the laptop or convert it to the tablet; it’s lightweight, it’s built to take a three-foot drop to concrete, it’s built to be able to use in the pouring rain, or if you get oil on it, you just wipe it off, the touch screen display, you can see it in direct sunlight or full dark—any environment. It’s built to take the heat, drops, spills, all the things you might encounter in a service bay environment.”
PUT TO THE TEST
One shop where the Toughbook has been put through its paces is Maverick Transportation’s Gary, IN facility, where you can find Zelko Marinac plying his trade. The 2007 SuperTech Challenge Electrical Skills Station winner, Marinac took home a Toughbook from Nashville and has been getting plenty of use from it.
In his 22 years as a technician, Marinac has seen the shift in his responsibilities to include more computer use, and because of that, he says the Toughbook is now an essential shop tool.
“You feel more confident because you’re not afraid if it’s going to fall or something; it’s waterproof and all that,” he says. “I take good care of it though—I know it’s tough, but I do. Everything has been working fine. It’s really easy to use.”
Marinac says the technicians in his shop try to take care of all their equipment, but in the past, sometimes even that was not enough with previous laptops.