Radio Dispatch

Someday you, too, might want your techs getting e-mail on the shop floor.


Now, New says, he tells the driver when something's wrong, and that switch has changed his entire maintenance operation.

"It's making my maintenance even better than it was," New says. "Before we were relying on the driver to bring the truck in and say, 'Hey, it's doing this...' Then the mechanic has to listen to what the driver is saying, then go back and figure out what the truck is really doing and how we need to fix it.

"With this system, I know there's something wrong with the truck before the driver does," he says. "It's telling me, 'This has happened,' and it's giving me the codes and everything. Then I'm calling the driver up and saying, 'Hey, are you by the truck? It's overheating!' And they go run outside and shut the truck down!"

YOU HAVE MAIL

For such a high-tech system, the interface is quite simple, almost quaint. New gets an e-mail in his inbox every time a truck throws a fault code, then he prints up the message and gives it to one of his two technicians. The technician then calls the driver, and, if the problem is serious, calls in the truck.

"The e-mail gives me a big, long number the manufacturer puts on all the codes in the system, and then a brief description: coolant level above normal," says New. If he wants more information, he can go into Networkcar from the administrative side and drill down for more details, such as the exact coolant temperature of the truck in question.

It's an option that gives New some added peace of mind. "Periodically I go in and look over the trucks, just to make sure I don't have a truck that's doing anything abnormal that the driver hasn't caught," he explains.

SHOP TALK

At the time of this writing, New was receiving all the Networkcar e-mails from all 21 trucks in his fleet, but by the time you read this that will have changed.

New has recently moved the maintenance facility into its current quarters, and the new shop is going high-tech.

"At our other location we didn't have computers or internet hookup, so we didn't use Networkcar for the maintenance side of it," he explains. "Now that we're here, we're getting a computer system set up in the shop, and we'll be transferring the e-mails from me. Right now, I get the e-mails, I print them out, I give them to the technicians and they take it from there. By the end of this week, they'll be receiving the e-mails."

New envisions a shop where there will always be a computer running, with an e-mail account tied in exclusively to Networkcar. Whenever a maintenance alert arrives in the inbox, a speaker in the shop will announce the arrival of the new e-mail with a loud "ding," and the maintenance process will begin.

Not only will the paperwork that now passes between New and his technicians be eliminated, but the technicians will be able to record the entire service history of all 21 trucks on the Networkcar system.

It will truly be a paperless shop.

DEALING WITH DEALERS

Telematics has also streamlined Southside Towing's interactions with their dealers' service departments. When the people on both ends of the phone call are referring to the same part number, things tend to go more smoothly.

"The way Networkcar works, it's no different than you taking it to the dealer so they can plug their computer into it," New says. "All of our heavy-duty trucks are either Internationals, Kenworths or Peterbilts. We do the towing for all the dealers here in town, so we're on first-name basis with all of them. We can walk in and say, 'Hey our truck is doing this,' and they don't even second-guess it. They just go in, fix that and send it out.

"They know we're on this type of system," he explains, "so we can call them up and say, 'This is the number I'm getting, and I don't know what it is. Can you tell me?' And they'll tell us, 'Yea, that's the O2 sensor,' or whatever it is."

Communications between the drivers and the maintenance shop has improved as well. New recalls how a communications gap between he and one of his drivers almost sidelined one of his heavy-duty wreckers, before Networkcar came to the rescue.

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