Of course, fleets like Waste Management can tell the manufacturers what they want, but there’s no guarantee that the manufacturers will listen. “We, as a customer, say there are certain things we’d like to see geared towards J1939, and the manufacturers will in some cases agree, or will push back, because of the level of difficulty implementing it into production,” Ehrenhaft says.
“The downside to this is that it’s too early to tell how well these issues have been addressed,” he continues. “Because it’s an RP, it stands for ‘Recommended Practice,’ and the OEMs don’t have to comply. We think it’s in everyone’s best interest, and the OEMs in attendance think the same, but when they move to their new product development teams and their product planning groups, their sourcing people, they may not have the same level of enthusiasm as we did in the Task Force. So we’re hoping that both the first-stage and final-stage manufacturers will really grab onto and embrace this RP.”
If and when they do, the impact on vocational fleets could be enormous. Ehrenhaft looks forward to quicker delivery time on ordered vehicles, better quality of those delivered vehicles, a more consistent product, and something even more important: “Probably one of the biggest things for the vocational side—and maybe the over-the-road side as well—is, hopefully, a reduction in finger-pointing,’ he says. “If everyone is singing from the same hymnal, the process runs very smoothly.”
When that day comes, and everyone is singing from the hymnal called RP 1507, fleets will be able to trace problems directly to their source. As Ehrenhaft puts it, the RP 1507 standard connector joining chassis electronics to body electronics will enable technicians to say ‘This problem begins and ends at this connection.’ “If it’s from this point forward, it’s yours, first-stage manufacturer,” he explains. “And if it’s from here rearward, it’s the second, or final-stage manufacturer’s.”
Is RP 1507 the “universal translator” that will enable chassis and bodies to talk to each other (and include maintenance technicians in the conversation as well)? A lot depends on whether the body builders are even listening. Cindy Florek notes that she sent invitations to a few hundred body builders to participate in the RP 1507 Task Force, but got “very little interest.”